CHENNAI: India takes on Australia in the first of five ODI matches in Chennai on Sunday, with a three-match Twenty20 contest to follow, as rivalry resumes between the two cricket giants.
India beat Australia 2-1 earlier this year in a controversial test series, played in such a hostile atmosphere that India skipper Virat Kohli said at the end he didn’t consider Australian cricketers as his “friends” any longer.
That’s not worrying Australia.
“I am not too concerned about my differences with Kohli. He is obviously a very good player and he has got a phenomenal ODI record,” Australia captain Steve Smith said on arriving in Chennai earlier this week. “Hopefully we can keep him quiet as much as possible, and if we do that, it can go a long way in having some success on this tour.”
Kohli faltered in the test series ? 46 runs in five innings, his poorest return from a test series on home soil ? and has a point to prove against Australia.
“You can keep talking the whole time, but if you don’t deliver on the field, it doesn’t matter,” Kohli said Saturday, adding that “mind games” wouldn’t distract him.
Kohli has recovered his form and India returned from an emphatic tour of Sri Lanka, where it beat the hosts across all three formats. India won the ODI series by a 5-0 margin, despite resting key bowlers. While pacers Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami are back to face Australia, spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja continue to be rested.
In their absence, left-arm orthodox spinner Axar Patel, left-arm leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav and leg-break bowler Yuzvendra Chahal have done the job well. They shared 14 wickets in five ODIs in Sri Lanka.
“It is a great advantage to have them in the squad,” Kohli said. “They are different bowlers, yet are both wicket-taking bowlers.”
Yadav made his test debut against Australia in Dharamsala and took 4-91. The Australians are treating him as a serious threat, even recruiting the services of a left-arm leg-spinner from Kerala to practice in the nets leading up to this first ODI.
“It was a chance to train against someone that bowls the same,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can put him (Yadav) under pressure early in his spell and try and take him for as many as we can.”
Australia has won two out of its last three full ODI series in India, in 2007-08 and in 2009-10, both by a 4-2 margin. The Australians recently drew the two-test series in Bangladesh 1-1
Aaron Finch will miss out owing to a calf injury. Peter Handscomb has been drafted into the squad as his replacement, but he will not reach Chennai in time for this first ODI. Travis Head is expected to open the innings with David Warner.
For India, Ajinkya Rahane is expected to partner up with Sharma, as first-choice partner Shikhar Dhawan was released from the ODI squad due to his wife’s illness. Lokesh Rahul will continue to bat in the middle order, while Kohli can opt for Kedar Jadhav or Manish Pandey at No. 6.