There has been a sense of deja vu every time Dhoni has stepped on to the field in the ongoing series.
Like students practising sample papers ahead of a major exam, the Indian cricket team is using the last set of opportunities — the five-match One-Day International series against Australia — to get used to as many match situations as possible ahead of the ICC World Cup.
The Virat Kohli-led side, which is 2-0 up, will approach the third match with confidence.
On a high
The host carries a lot of positivity into this engagement, at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium on Friday, because of all-rounder Vijay Shankar’s phenomenal final over in the second ODI.
Vijay’s ‘moment’ in Nagpur must have come as a huge relief for the Indian think-tank. Vijay, who has bowled only 20.3 overs and taken two wickets (in Nagpur) in the last six one-dayers, has perhaps resolved the uncertainty surrounding a scenario triggered by the absence of Hardik Pandya, who is out of action due to a back injury.
Having tested its pace bowling resources well in the first two matches, India has brought back Bhuvneshwar Kumar — one of its key swing bowlers who could play a crucial role in England — for the remainder of the series.
Since the action is happening in M.S. Dhoni’s backyard, some amount of attention is reserved for him. The JSCA has named a stand after Dhoni and the crowd would love to see their hero hit a few of his trademark sixes towards the tier bearing his name.
Even as Kohli, who skipped the optional practice session on Thursday, will remain the mainstay of Indian batting, some other batsmen, including K.L. Rahul and young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, may get some match time.
Shikhar Dhawan, who has not had a satisfying knock in more than a month, will aim at playing a big innings.
The spin trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal is engaged in a healthy battle.
The Australian bowlers have stuck to their task in preventing India from gathering massive totals. However, its batting — comprising performers like Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis — has not realised its potential.
Australia, which received a pep talk from former pace ace Mitchell Johnson ahead of its practice, would like to rectify its middle-overs mess and finish its innings well.
With a lush green outfield, the JSCA Stadium — which has witnessed India winning two, losing one and a washout against Australia in 2013 — will wait to see how the two teams respond to the challenge.
The teams (from):
India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and K.L. Rahul.
Australia: Aaron Finch (Capt.), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Andrew Tye, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Alex Carey, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Nathan Lyon.
Match starts at 1.30 p.m.