The contest between the best two men’s One-Day International sides in the world in a ODI World Cup year should ideally be seen as a marquee event. But the setting for the three-match series between India and Australia doesn’t quite feel that way.

For starters, it is happening right after the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which is always a highly intense affair. The playing days might not have been the full quota of 20, but in terms of what was at stake, and the importance of this series now in the calendar, there is bound to be exhaustion on both sides as things came to an end (rather tamely) in Ahmedabad just earlier this week on Monday.

India vs Australia ODIs

Date Match Venue
17-Mar 1st ODI Mumbai
19-Mar 2nd ODI Vizag
22-Mar 3rd ODI Chennai

The promotions for Indian Premier League are also already in full swing, and the tournament this year is going to take quite a lot of space in the calendar. For the players (plenty of names from both sides will be involved in the league) who will be back travelling home and away, over the course of the high-intensity league, more exhaustion awaits.

So, naturally, the contest between No 1 and No 2 on the men’s ODI rankings feels forced right now, not something that would excite too many stakeholders (Wonder if that’s where ODIs stand right now in men’s cricket, but that is for another day).

Nevertheless, for both sides, it’s a big chance to fine-tune their World Cup plans. Especially more so for Australia, given they have barely played the format in recent times and are in a period of transition. Steve Smith will lead them, in the absence of Pat Cummins who was last year named the ODI captain too post Aaron Finch’s retirement. The return of Glenn Maxwell is a massive boost and Australia will be hoping to see him hit the ground running.

Mitchell Marsh, likely to play this series as just a batter, had spoken about the cushion of having so many all-rounders in the mix.

“For the balance of our team, having as many allrounders in here as we can is really important for the structure we line up with,” Marsh said.

“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.”

Hardik Pandya to lead in first ODI

With Rohit Sharma unavailable for the match in Mumbai, Hardik Pandya (now the ODI Vice Captain) will lead India in the opening match of the series. While there has been no official BCCI statement on the extent of Shreyas Iyer’s back issues, he has been ruled out of the ODI series as per the team’s fielding coach T Dilip. Iyer had been in great form in recent times for India in this format in the middle order and his absence will be felt. It is not clear yet if India have sought a replacement.

It opens up the chance for Suryakumar Yadav to show what he is capable of in the 50-over format, where he is yet to nail down a sure-shot place. Pandya confirmed that Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill will be opening the batting in Mumbai as well.

While the batting has a few concerns to be taken care of, in bowling Pandya will have a problem of plenty. The spin-bowling all-round options for India in this format is perhaps the best in the world, with the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel available for selection. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will likely be vying for one spot while Mohammed Siraj has been superb in this format in recent times and will lead the pace attack.

The pre-series buzz might be a little off but India-Australia contests tend to reel everyone in once the action begins.

IND vs AUS men's ODIs

Team Matches IND W AUS W Tied NR
In India 64 29 30 0 5
Overall 143 53 80 0 10

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa

India’s squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain, not available for first match), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya (Vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Jaydev Unadkat