Big picture: The appetiser to the IPL
Sandwiched between the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and IPL 2023, the ODI series between India and Australia doesn’t seem to have top billing. Even days out from the opening Test, everyone jumped on the BGT hype train, and minutes after the final one ended in a draw, India’s coach Rahul Dravid was asked how he would manage the IPL players in the lead-up to the World Test Championship (WTC) final at The Oval in June. A day after that, Australia allrounder Cameron Green, who was bought for INR 17.5 crore (USD 2.1 million) by Mumbai Indians, joined his IPL coach Mark Boucher and team-mate Ishan Kishan on the sidelines of a WPL game.
This three-match ODI series isn’t part of the World Cup Super League either, but it’s a chance for both India and Australia to fine-tune their plans for the ODI World Cup, which is also around the corner. Australia haven’t played ODI cricket since they swept England 3-0 at home in November last year, almost immediately after the 2022 T20 World Cup, and are still getting used to life after Aaron Finch’s international retirement. David Warner is working his way back from an elbow injury and a barren run in the first half of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. In his first crack at Finch’s opening role, Head rattled off scores of 69, 19, and 152 against England and in his first crack at opening the batting in Test cricket in place of Warner, he enhanced his reputation even further. Glenn Maxwell is also back from injury, but Australia will have to contend with the absence of both Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
Fast bowler Jhye Richardson has also joined Australia’s absentee list, but they would do well to remind themselves that they are the only team to have beaten India in a bilateral ODI series in India since 2016. Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy and Matthew Kuhnemann have returned home, and now it’s over to Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, the white-ball specialists.
India have to navigate through challenges of their own. Shreyas Iyer will miss his second successive ODI series with injury while Rohit Sharma will not be available for the first game in Mumbai because of family commitments. Jasprit Bumrah faces a race against time to be fit for the ODI World Cup, but in his absence, Mohammed Siraj has emerged as the leader of the pace pack. Shardul Thakur, who made a successful comeback during the ODI series against New Zealand earlier this year, lends greater balance to the side along with the returning Ravindra Jadeja. With all of Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal available for this series, India are spoiled for choice on the spin front.
India: WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Ishan Kishan and Adam Zampa
Rohit is out of the first ODI, but India have so much depth that they can replace him with another ODI double-centurion Ishan Kishan. He will partner India’s latest ODI double-centurion Shubman Gill. Since his scorching 210 in Chattogram in December last year, Kishan’s form has cooled off. With Rohit set to return for the second ODI in Visakhapatnam and KL Rahul set to be India’s first-choice keeper in Rishabh Pant’s absence, this might be a big chance for Kishan to shake things up, ahead of the World Cup.
Six years ago, Hardik Pandya had said: “I knew that I could hit a six off him [Adam Zampa] anytime I wanted to,” at a press conference. Zampa has now evolved into one of the best white-ball spinners and recent numbers back that claim. Since the end of the 2019 ODI World Cup, Zampa has taken 62 wickets in 37 matches at a strike rate of 24.7 and economy rate of just under five. No other spinner from Full-Member nations has more wickets than Zampa during this period. In the inaugural ILT20 in the UAE, Zampa was Dubai Capitals’ joint-highest wicket-taker with nine strikes at an economy rate of below five once again, despite having played just four matches.
Team news: Maxwell returns from injury
Suryakumar Yadav or the uncapped Rajat Patidar is likely to get a go in the middle order in place of the injured Iyer. On the bowling front, India have a surfeit of options to choose from.
India (probable): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Ishan Kishan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav/Rajat Patidar, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya (capt), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Axar Patel/Washington Sundar, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Mohammed Shami/Umran Malik
A fit-again Maxwell will directly slot back into Australia’s middle order and could potentially be their second spinner behind Zampa. With neither Cummins or Hazlewood available, there might be an opening for Tasmania and Hobart Hurricanes quick Nathan Ellis. Green, Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis and Sean Abbott and Ashton Agar will likely compete for two spots in the XI. Marsh, though, will not bowl in this series, which could impact how Australia balance their team.
Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Travis Head, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Mitchell Marsh/Marcus Stoinis, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Cameron Green, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Nathan Ellis
Pitch and conditions… for a run-fest
The Wankhede pitch is usually a flat one, which gets even better for batting, under lights, once the dew sets in. In the most recent ODI played at this venue, in 2020, Australia hunted down 256 in under 38 overs with all ten wickets to spare.