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India's Virat Kohli bats in the nets during a practice session at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Mumbai: Hardik Pandya, the stand-in skipper for India’s first ODI against Australia at the Wankhede Stadium, said Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill will be the opening pair for the hosts here on Friday.

With Rohit Sharma unavailable for the ODI series opener due to personal reasons, a vacancy at the top will be filled by Kishan, with the left-handed batter set to join forces with the right-handed Gill.

While Gill hit a double hundred and a century in India’s last ODI assignment against New Zealand earlier in the year, Kishan had an underwhelming run ever since he hit a rollicking 210 against Bangladesh last year.

Equal opportunities

“Ishan and Shubman will be opening. The wicket looks how it is throughout the year. I have played here for almost seven years and it is one of the finest grounds I have enjoyed playing. It’s going to be challenging since this wicket will give equal opportunities to both sides. That will be more exciting,” said Hardik in the pre-match press conference.

As India restart their preparations for 2023 ODI World Cup, to be held in October-November here, the team’s past failures in the knockouts and attempts to change the equation have come again to the fore.

Hardik believes India will try to put up a braver show in the lead-up to World Cup. “I don’t think we have tried anything new. We will be trying to be a little brave, which I think in the last couple of series we have done quite well.

Great feeling

“All these bilaterals are as challenging, they can get as close to the wire as they can. That is the only way we are going to learn and start playing under the pressure of knockouts. The past is past, we don’t need to look at that right now. We are hoping for the best things to come.”

Friday’s match will also see Hardik become the 27th ODI captain of India. “Feeling is very great. Obviously, very honoured. From the journey where it started and to now leading the side in ODIs has filled my chest with a little bit more pride. Looking forward to the new challenge, as many games as possible.”

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Skipper Hardik Pandya pondering during the practice session on the eve of the first ODI against Australia in Mumbai. Image Credit: AFP

Asked what changes for him as an ODI captain after leading the T20I side for a while, Hardik opined, “It’s an extension of the T20 game. In T20 games, you still have to do a lot of changes because of every ball and over changes the game.

“In ODIs, it’s more like you continue to do more and have more set plans. It’s like you have one set plan and continue to do it for six overs. It’s more about controlling that six-over periods, and is a little less fast than T20s.”

Ethically wrong

With India set to play World Test Championship final against Australia at The Oval from June 7-11, Hardik, who last played a Test match in 2018, ruled himself out from playing the finale for the global mace.

“No, I am an ethically very strong person. I haven’t done anything to reach there. I am not even a part of the team. So me coming there and taking someone’s place will ethically not go well with me. If I want to play Test cricket, I will go through the grind and earn my spot to come back. Hence, for that reason, I will not be available for the WTC final or future Test series until I feel that I have earned my spot.”

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Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh adressing a press conference at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Australia’s Mitchell Marsh is confident the abundance of all-rounders in their squad will serve them well in India, both in the upcoming one-day series and at the 50-over World Cup later this year.

Australia lost the four-match Test series against India 2-1 but have been bolstered by the return from injury of all-rounders Marsh (ankle) and Glenn Maxwell (leg). They have more all-round options in Cameron Green, Marcus Stoinis and Ashton Agar and Marsh said it augured well for the side ahead of the World Cup in October-November.

Team structure

“The more all-rounders, the better,” Marsh told reporters. “For the balance of our team, having as many all-rounders in here as we can is really important for the structure we line up with.” The 31-year-old cited the example of white-ball world champions England.

“England have guys batting at No 8 that are genuine batters.

“It gives you the ability to either set really big totals or chase big totals. You’ll see that, hopefully, this series.

“Looking forward to the World Cup, just the way the cricket is played here in the white-ball format, you’re going to have to chase big scores or make big scores to be able to defend them.”

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Glenn Maxwell, one of the all-rounders returning from a surgery, has bolstered the team's fortunes in the series against India. Image Credit: AFP

Bowling options

Returning from an ankle surgery, Marsh will play as a specialist batter in the ODI series against India but hopes to resume bowling in the Indian Premier League starting on March 31.

“I’m probably a month away, three weeks away, from bowling in games. I’ll build towards the IPL.

“We’ve got a lot of (bowling) options in our team at the moment and a lot of cricket to play this year.”

With regular skipper Pat Cummins staying back in Australia following the death of his mother, Steve Smith will lead the visitors in the ODI series.

India batter Shreyas Iyer has been ruled out of the series after suffering lower back pain in the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad.