Virat Kohli added more intrigue to an already highly-anticipated clash as he suggested a possible revamp to the batting order that would see him bat at No 4, when the formidable hosts take on a full-strength Australia in the first of the three-match One-Day International series starting in Mumbai on Tuesday.
India will look to ensure that their enviable home run remains intact against the one team that has managed to get the better of an otherwise all-conquering side.
As Aaron Finch and Co visit for a quick series, the series defeat ahead of the 2019 World Cup will still be fresh on Kohli’s mind. And the Indian captain said he has no hesitation coming down the order to ensure that KL Rahul’s consistency and Shikhar Dhawan’s experience are both accommodated in the Indian playing XI.
“...big possibility. I would be very happy to do so. Look I am not possessive about where I play. I am not insecure about where I bat,” Kohli said.
The high-voltage rivalry that fans enjoy will be back as Rohit Sharma’s elegance will be pitted against enforcer David Warner while the Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith duel will resume in earnest.
India’s hungry-for-wickets pace attack led by Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini is ready to test the Australians with subtle variations.
On the other hand, IPL’s costliest foreign recruit Pat Cummins, the crafty Kane Richardson and the ever-dependable Mitchell Starc will leave no stone unturned to make life uncomfortable for Kohli and his men.
Alex Carey’s gutsy batting and faultless glove-work will be pitted against Rishabh Pant’s flair.
The young Marnus Labuschagne, easily the most exciting talent spreading his wings on the international cricket map with some stellar performances in the Test arena, would like to replicate his form in the shorter formats. With selectors dropping Glenn Maxwell from a much-changed World Cup squad, Labuschagne’s performance will be watched with keen interest.
Kohli at No 4?
It could be a curve-ball still, but Kohli’s suggestion to pack the top three with conventional openers is certainly an interesting one with the world’s best ODI batsman opting to give up his favoured No 3 slot.
On current form, Rahul was miles ahead to partner Rohit Sharma at the top of the order but Dhawan has had a phenomenal record in white ball cricket against the Aussies.
In fact, in their last meeting in the ODI World Cup, it was Dhawan’s superb hundred that paved the way for an easy victory for the Indians.
But that was a good seven months back and Dhawan, since then, endured a spate of injuries. He also lost form only to find good touch by scoring a half-century in the final T20 against Sri Lanka.
During World Cup, till Dhawan was around, KL Rahul batted at No 4 as a stop-gap solution but Shreyas Iyer has made the slot his own with a string of good scores.
The Wankhede track is usually a belter and India will certainly not go with two wrist spinners considering the fate they met during the last home series in March, which India lost 2-3.
Kuldeep Yadav, who has a hat-trick against Australia, is likely to be preferred over Yuzvendra Chahal, reported PTI. It will also be interesting to see how Bumrah holds up for a 10-over spell, as he continues his comeback to international cricket from a long break due to back injury.
There is a strong possibility that Kedar Jadhav will be the one to make way for accommodating an extra top order batsman and this series could see his value diminish in the format unless the pint-sized Pune right-hander does something extra special. With buzz being about his reluctance to bowl off-breaks in order to enhance his IPL career, a few good scores will be required to keep the likes of Suryakumar Yadav out of the equation when the Indian team for the ODI series in New Zealand is announced on January 19.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Rishabh Pant (Wicket-keeper), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami.
Australia: Aaron Finch (Captain), Alex Carey (Wicket-keeper), Patrick Cummins, Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschange, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner and Adam Zampa.
Match starts at 1.30pm IST
(With PTI inputs)