The discussion surrounding the scheduling of matches during India’s tour of Australia, perhaps, must have been centered around playing formats in ascending order of importance. Bilateral One Day Internationals are the least of priorities for India at the moment so have them set aside first, before we move on to T20 internationals and then the Test cricket.

And so here we are, after Virat Kohli and Co averted a clean sweep in the ODIs, looking ahead to three matches of the shortest format that will restart India’s preparations for the T20 World Cup, now the one to be held in India in 2021.

Struggling for balance in ODIs, India will have enough options to choose from to pose a stiffer challenge to Aaron Finch and Co when the two sides clash in a three-match T20 series beginning in Canberra on Friday.

Kohli suggested that, after more than two months of Indian Premier League action, the Indian team perhaps were starting to clock out early during the fielding innings during ODIs but they should be warmed up now and in a better position to take on the hosts.

Australia had already played T20Is in England before the IPL began but this series will mark the resumption of India’s mission T20 World Cup, abruptly ended after the whitewash of New Zealand in their backyard.

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For two teams that host two of the most popular T20 leagues in the world, T20I cricket has remained bit of a puzzle for India and Australia to crack at the biggest stage. While India have not won since the inaugural edition, Australia have never won the T20 World Cup.

T20I record among matches between top 10

Team Span Mat Won Lost Tied NR W/L
India 2006-2020 122 74 42 3 3 1.76
Pakistan 2006-2020 132 72 55 3 2 1.31
South Africa 2005-2020 117 63 52 1 1 1.21
England 2005-2020 122 63 53 2 4 1.19
Australia 2005-2020 123 64 54 2 3 1.19
New Zealand 2005-2020 124 53 59 8 4 0.90
West Indies 2006-2020 116 48 61 3 4 0.79
Sri Lanka 2006-2020 120 51 65 2 2 0.78
Afghanistan 2010-2019 21 7 14 0 0 0.50
Matches played by these 10 teams against each other taken for consideration (via ESPNCricinfo)

Australia are India’s most common T20I opponents already and that count is set to pull away from Sri Lanka after this bilateral series. In the 20 matches India have faced off against Australia, the win-loss record is 11-8.

India's T20I record by opposition

Opposition Mat Wins Losses Win % NR Tied
v Australia 20 11 8 55.00% 1 0
v Sri Lanka 19 13 5 68.42% 1 0
v West Indies 17 10 6 58.82% 1 0
v New Zealand 16 8 8 50.00% 0 2
v South Africa 15 9 6 60.00% 0 0
v England 14 7 7 50.00% 0 0
v Bangladesh 11 10 1 90.91% 0 0
v Pakistan 8 7 1 87.50% 0 1
v Zimbabwe 7 5 2 71.43% 0 0
At least five matches played (via ESPNCricinfo)

The 1-2 ODI series loss reaffirmed that India have a lot of work to do in the 50-over format but they possess a tad more balanced squad in the shortest format.

The presence of Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar and T Natarajan, who did well on his ODI debut on Wednesday, lends more variety to the bowling department. Washington will be high on confidence after a solid IPL where Kohli used him in the powerplay effectively for Royal Challengers Bangalore.

With Hardik Pandya not bowling regularly, India had only one all-rounder in Ravindra Jadeja in the one-dayers. However, in the T20s, Kohli will also have the services of Washington in both the departments and there is a possibility that Hardik can roll his arm over for a brief spell like he did in the second ODI.

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Yorker specialist Natarajan, who was a late addition to the ODI squad, could also make his T20I debut on Friday having shown enough promise in his maiden international appearance.

Unlike the SCG, the Manuka Oval surface had enough for both the spinners and pacers. It will be interesting to the combination that Kohli goes with: Jadeja as the fifth bowler or a sixth bowling option.

In batting, KL Rahul, who batted at five in ODIs, is expected to go back to his preferred opening slot alongside Shikhar Dhawan. The in-form wicketkeeper batsman had also opened in the previous series against New Zealand but it will worth keeping an eye on his strike rates, which were not the greatest during IPL.

Skipper Kohli looked in good touch in ODIs and will be aiming to build on that. There is a competition of places for the rest of the batting lineup between Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson.

It will be worth keeping an eye on India’s batting approach. Often in the past, the team has been guilty of being a bit conservative in the shortest format, something that was rectified in the home series against West Indies last year, when the team was under pressure to win the series.

As Kohli mentioned, the win in the inconsequential third ODI was just the kind of result they needed ahead of the T20 series, else the tour would have gotten harder.

Australia, after naming the same squad for ODIs as well as T20s, would be backing themselves to beat India after a clinical display over the last one week despite injury concerns.

Star batsman David Warner is unavailable due to a groin injury and it remains to be seen if Marnus Labuschagne comes alongside skipper Aaron Finch on Friday like they both did a night ago.

Marcus Stoinis would have been another good opening option with Finch but he too is a doubtful starter due to a side injury he suffered during the ODIs.

Mitchell Starc, who was rested on Wednesday, is expected to return to bolster the attack even as the side misses the services of Pat Cummins, who has been rested as part of the his workload management.


India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain and wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, T Natarajan.

Australia: Aaron Finch (C), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Daniel Sams, Kane Richardson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, A’’Arcy Short, Adam Zampa.

Match starts 1.40 PM IST and will be broadcast on Sony Sports Pictures Network.

(With PTI inputs)