With another series defeat against the Australians at home looming on the horizon, all eyes are on Virat Kohli and his batting position in Rajkot on Friday after the strategy of coming two-down did not pan out in the series-opener in Mumbai.
India take on a resolute Australia in the must-win second One-Day International at the SCA Stadium on Friday, hoping to avoid back-to-back series defeats in the format against Aaron Finch’s side.
India go into the game 0-1 down after Australia registered a 10-wicket win at the Wankhede Stadium, courtesy David Warner and Aaron Finch, who hit unbeaten hundreds.
In a bid to field all three openers – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul –, Kohli dropped himself down the order but the plan backfired as none of the top four went on to make a big score, leaving the middle order exposed.
Opener Dhawan later said he was ready to bat at number three if asked to by the team management, but since Kohli has been successful at that position, ideally he should keep his best spot.
Kohli batting at three also provides stability to the middle-order.
With a concussed Rishabh Pant out of the second game, Rahul is a certainty in the side as he will keep wickets.
So, like in the last game, Rohit and Dhawan, who made a dogged 74 off 91 balls in Wankhede, could open, and there could be a toss-up between Rahul and young Shreyas Iyer at number four.
Pant’s absence could pave the way for the inclusion of Karnataka batsman Manish Pandey, who made optimum use of the opportunity that he got in the third T20 against Sri Lanka in Pune.
It would also be interesting to see which among the experienced Kedar Jadhav and rookie Shivam Dube makes the squad, with India’s bowling lineup lacking a sixth bowling option otherwise.
Rohit, who had a phenomenal 2019, failed in the first game, but given the form he is in, the opener is expected to bounce back strongly. Ditto for Kohli, who is just one hundred short of equalling cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most hundreds on home soil for India.
The bowlers led by Jasprit Bumrah had a forgettable outing at the Wankhede and they would be more than eager to make a strong comeback and prove their mettle.
It would be interesting to see whether India play Delhi speedster Navdeep Saini or persist with Shardul Thakur, who gave away 43 runs in Mumbai.
Ravindra Jadeja looks a certainty and so the choice would be between chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who conceded 55 runs in the first ODI and Yuzvendra Chahal as the lead spinner.
On the other hand, a high on confidence Australia will be looking to seal the issue to register back to back series wins in India, a rare feat for any visiting team. The Finch-Warner combination will look forward to carry the momentum.
Their middle-order comprising the experienced Steve Smith, in-form Marnus Labuschange, Ashton Turner and Alex Carey looks more or less settled.
If all of them fire in unison, along with the openers, then it will hard for the opposition bowlers.
However, it will be quite a test of their middle-order at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium.
Australian bowlers also showed at the Wankhede, why they are considered among the best. Led by pace spearhead Mitchell Starc, they bundled out India for a sub-par 255 and Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins would be raring to go once again.
Spinners Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, not only contained the runs, but provided crucial breakthroughs and are expected to play a similar role again in the middle overs.
The track is expected to be a belter and India can draw confidence from the home series against New Zealand in 2017, when they won 2-1 after losing the opener, co-incidentally in Mumbai.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul (wicketkeeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami. (KS Bharat added to squad as back-up keeper)
Australia: Aaron Finch (Captain), Alex Carey (Wicket-keeper), Patrick Cummins, Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschange, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner and Adam Zampa.
Match starts at 1.30 IST
(With PTI inputs)