Dubai: Despite India having the slightly better record over the past two years against Australia in ODIs — winning seven of 12 matches — it will be the hosts who start as favourites when the three-game ODI series gets under way at Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.
Opening batsman Rohit Sharma is missing for the tourists and India are also short on bowling options due to the absence of all-rounders. Australia’s headache is that they have so many all-round options to choose from.
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The last time India played Down Under, on their tour in 2018-19, they won the series 2-1 going against the usual trend in Australia over the years which has seen the hosts dominate. In 51 matches they have played in Australia, India have won just 13 times. They have lost 36 matches.
Mayank Agarwal is likely to replace Rohit. The right-handed batsman, who played for Kings XI Punjab as opener in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE, scored heavily in the first half of the tournament before his form tapered off. Nevertheless, he kept getting good starts and finished the tournament with 424 runs.
He will open the innings with left-hander Shikhar Dhawan, who too did very well in the IPL, scoring more than 600 runs and finishing second to KL Rahul in the race for the Orange Cap.
Speaking on Rohit’s absence, Australia skipper Aaron Finch said: “He is obviously a great player, someone who had great success against us. Like I said you want to play against the best players of all time. For Rohit, picking up injury wasn’t ideal for him. But whoever is going to replace him, possibly Mayank Aggarwal, he is in great form. So he will be replaced with a quality player.”
The fact that India’s top-order was in form during the IPL could bode well for them, with skipper Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer getting among the runs.
“Form in any format whether it is grade cricket or Test cricket, matters. It is nice to be getting runs and taking the field. Form is form,” added Finch who himself couldn’t make much of an impact in the IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore, scoring at just over 22 with one half-century.
For Australia, David Warner scored runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad but Steve Smith did not do too well for Rajasthan Royals.
However, the presence of all-round options could be where Australia may score against the Men in Blue.
They have multiple all-rounders as options while India have just Ravindra Jadeja. Hardik Pandya is in the squad, hasn’t been bowling recently, including in the IPL.
A lot will hinge on India’s main bowlers. If they wilt, then Aussies will pile on the runs. The surface is likely to be batting friendly although Finch said that it is a bit unknown.
“I spoke to Justin Langer but he said that it was covered up. It is a bit unknown. We will get there and see tomorrow,” said the Australian skipper.
The first two matches in Sydney will be played at 50 per cent crowd capacity while the third ODI at Canberra will be played at 65 per cent crowd capacity.
“The last time we played in front of crowds in Australia was a very long time ago. There has been a huge amount of work going to allow that to happen — from the public in various states there has been tremendous amount of work done to keep coronavirus under control. We are really excited. We know how much of a great atmosphere would it be,” said Finch.
India will play three ODIs, three T20Is and four Tests against Australia.