Team India has an enviable ODI record to protect


The host’s challenge will be finding the ideal combination to counter Australia’s batting depth

India enters its final One-Day International series before the World Cup with a great degree of certainty around the squad.

There were “just one or two places” that remained to be filled in the final 15-man group for the big tournament, M.S.K. Prasad, chairman of the Senior Selection Committee, said recently.

Last week, Virat Kohli felt every piece of the jigsaw was “more or less sorted”. It is clear that Kohli and the selectors have no intention of making any dramatic last-minute additions or excisions, instead largely keeping faith in the unit that has taken shape over the last year-and-a-half.

One last look

This five-match series against Australia, which begins with the first ODI at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here on Saturday, will give the home side a last look at itself in a competitive environment ahead of the World Cup.

It is also a final opportunity — going by Kohli’s pronouncement that IPL performances would not be a factor — for players not yet sure of their spots to make a mark.

Among those would be Vijay Shankar, who impressed under pressure in New Zealand and had, according to Prasad, “changed the dynamics” of selection. Rishabh Pant was underwhelming in the two T20s, but he will have to justify his presence ahead of Dinesh Karthik over the next two weeks.

K.L. Rahul, who it would seem is leading the race for the reserve opener’s spot, may also be seen at the top of the order over the course of the series. Ravindra Jadeja was only called up as a replacement for Hardik Pandya, who is injured, but the Saurashtra all-rounder can now make a case for himself.

Kohli will be wary of Australia’s batting depth this series.

Both sides will remember — the bowlers with a little less fondness — their manic run-fest in this country in 2013, when six ODIs produced a total of over 3,500 runs.

India will seek to bat deep and strong, which makes numbers 5, 6 and 7 in the order important. It will be interesting to note what combinations Kohli tries out over the five matches.

M.S. Dhoni (who had an injury scare in the nets on Friday), Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar filled those places in India’s last one-dayer, in New Zealand, but the absence of Hardik means Kohli will have to consider how many overs he can get out of Kedar Jadhav and Vijay.

Australia will be confident after victory in the two T20Is; starting tours well, its hero Glenn Maxwell noted, made a huge difference to team morale.

Hard to beat

At the end of this trip, Aaron Finch’s men have five more one-day matches, against Pakistan in the UAE, to settle on their squad.

India, though, will be hard to beat here. It has won 12 of its last 13 ODI series, and has lost only one series at home since the start of 2013. After a first T20 series defeat at home in over three years, Kohli will not want another record to fall.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, M.S. Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant, Siddharth Kaul and K.L. Rahul.

Australia: Aaron Finch (Capt.), Pat Cummins, Alex Carey, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Andrew Tye, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner and Adam Zampa.


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