Chennai: As early matches go at any Cricket World Cup , they couldn't get any bigger than Sunday's game between hosts and two-time winners India and five-time champions Australia.
India won the World Cup in 1983 and in 2011 — the last time the tournament was played in India. Since then, it has won only one ICC event — the 2013 Champions Trophy in England — and India is looking to end its trophy drought in home conditions.
Australia is the most successful ODI team, having won the 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015 competitions. It is the only side to win three successive ODI titles.
Pacemen Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will lead the Australia bowling, while wrist spinner Adam Zampa has enjoyed success in Indian conditions — 27 wickets in 16 matches at an average of 30.77.
Australian batsmen have a rich experience of Indian conditions, and almost all of them are linked up with Indian Premier League franchises. David Warner, Steve Smith, Cameron Green, Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell spend a lot of time playing in Indian conditions.
Travis Head’s injury is an early blow to Australia, but Marsh and Warner have linked up well as an opening pair.
Stoinis is yet to recover from a hamstring strain and could be unavailable against India. The remaining lineup worked hard to regain form in the lead-up to this tournament, despite Australia losing five of its last six ODIs in South Africa and India.
The remaining lineup worked hard to regain form in the lead-up to this tournament, despite Australia losing five of its last six ODIs in South Africa and India.
Australia beat India in Chennai in March on its way to a 2-1 ODI series’ win, with Zampa picking up a match-winning 4-45.
Skipper Cummins said: “Playing in India, not only for Australia but also in the IPL, helps a lot. I have probably played more white ball cricket in India than I have in Australia over the last 10 years.
“These are conditions we know really well, and the positive thing is that we have played some really good one-day cricket against India over here in the last few years.”
Equilibrium between pace and spin
For India, the equilibrium between pace and spin will define its World Cup combinations. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj are expected to lead the bowling attack, with wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja as automatic choices. All-rounder Hardik Pandya fits in as the third paceman.
Captain Rohit Sharma said: “To be able to play three spinners is a luxury for us. Hardik is a proper fast bowler who can crank up good speed. That gives us an advantage – three spinners as well as three fast bowlers on this pitch. It gives us that balance with batting till number eight as well."
Along with Virat Kohli, Ashwin was part of India’s 2011 victorious campaign. Back then, his tournament started in Chennai as well and he was drafted into the side ahead of the knockouts. Ashwin was a late entrant into the 2023 World Cup squad — he had only played two ODIs since 2017 — both in South Africa in 2022, before being called up in September.
In home conditions, India’s batting lineup is the strongest on paper and consists of the veritable superstars of world cricket. Kohli is on the verge of breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s all-time ODI centuries’ record, while Sharma wants to make up for missing out the 2011 tournament.
“Like Sachin Tendulkar often said, until he wins the World Cup it was unfinished business (for him). So it’s the same for us as well now. Winning the World Cup is the biggest prize we can have in our career,” said Sharma.
India may be without Shubman Gill, who is ill, but the team management have refused to confirm reports that he has dengue fever. If he misses out, Ishan Kishan will open the innings with Sharma.