Australia’s ODI captain Aaron Finch on Friday said India’s batting is heavily reliant on its top-three and his team will be looking to exploit that weakness in the three-match series beginning in Sydney on Saturday.
Finch said his team’s target will be to dismiss India’s top-three batsmen – Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – cheaply.
“Over the last 12 months, Virat’s averaged 133, Shikhar 75, and Rohit 50; so there’s a lot of runs and balls faced from their top three,” he said.
“It’s important to get them as early as you can because once they get in, they score fast and they don’t seem to get out too easily.”
With the success of the Indian top-order, the middle-order comprising MS Dhoni has not been tested enough.
“Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Dhoni... these guys that can all play their part as well,” Finch said.
“The top three are very important but you can’t just look at that otherwise there’s someone else that will catch you off-guard and get the job done as well,” said Finch.
Like India, Australia will kick off their 2019 World Cup preparations in Sydney, albeit they have a Test series against Sri Lanka in between.
The hosts announced their playing eleven for the series opener as per norm, with keeper-batsman Alex Carey set to open the batting with Finch. The batting runs deep with Glenn Maxwell at number seven.
“It’s just an opportunity to see Alex play in a position he’s done quite bit in Big Bash and one-day cricket,” said Finch.
“He’s been shuffled around the order a bit in the last little while... we are trying to search for that process and right balance of the side.
“We’ve got three games here which will be very tough, then straight to India for five ODIs, then Pakistan so that’s a very tough 13 games, then a few warm-up and practice games against New Zealand.”
The absence of the suspended David Warner and Steve Smith has unsettled the Australian batting.
“These are still the best part of 18 games to get that right,” said Finch. “While it would have been great to have a settled side for the last 12-18 months, it’s still enough time to get it right and make sure come that World Cup that we are ready to go with a really balanced and settled side.”
Finch said that the ODI series is a chance for their batting line-up to start afresh after the collective failure in the previous outings.
When asked about Jasprit Bumrah’s absence, as the India pacer has been rested for this series, Finch replied, “Bumrah has played a huge part for their one-day side, or all their sides. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is someone who has had success at all levels as well.
“...The two spinners in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have played a huge role over the last month as well. There’s no real weak links in their side. They’ve got an extra spin option in the squad with Jadeja, Kedar who can bowl some off-spin.”
Bumrah has been replaced by Mohammed Siraj, with others in the pace department including Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammad Shami.
“They have got left- [and] right-arm spin, leg-spin, off-spin, so they’ve got plenty of options... They play their own conditions very well but I think the amount of times they’re winning away from home in the shorter formats is a credit to them.”
Australia have rested their own primary pacers in Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, with old-timer Peter Siddle returning to the side after a gap of eight years.
“For Siddle to go away and work on the skills that he’s brought to the table over the last couple of years in Big Bash cricket is outstanding. He probably went with a real red-ball focus for a long time there and probably neglected the one-day skills.
“Then to come back and have an eight-week period last year where he just focused on skills for the white ball and how quickly he improved was unbelievable,” Finch added.