Hyderabad, Mar 1: The last leg of India’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 preparations begins on Saturday when they take on Australia in the first of five one-day internationals at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here.
These are India’s last five ODIs before they arrive in England and Wales, and they represent the last chance for management to try out and firm up plans.
There is plenty to figure. KL Rahul’s good form during the Twenty20 Internationals – he scored 50 and 47 in the two matches – has given India a lift. Rahul’s form was dreadful in Australia, but time spent with Rahul Dravid and the India A squad has helped the dynamic batsman find his mojo. He’s once again among the runs, and India will look to use him either as a back-up opener or as an alternative at No. 4, which has been for long a topic of debate.
There are issues elsewhere that will need to be resolved. Vijay Shankar has impressed with both bat and ball when given the chance, and with Hardik Pandya ruled out with a lower back injury, Shankar will yet again look to press his case for a more permanent spot in the line-up.
What of Rishabh Pant, then? He did his reputation as a specialist batsman no harm in New Zealand, but that was in the T20Is. The last ODI he played was against West Indies in October, and while that suggests he’s not in the selectors' plans for the World Cup, he is still in the squad. Among the bowlers, will India give another outing to Siddharth Kaul? “We have seen Khaleel Ahmed, and we would like to see Siddharth Kaul,” chief selector MSK Prasad had said while announcing the squad. Kaul will be involved for the first two ODIs, before Bhuvneshwar Kumar returns for the final three. If given an outing, he’ll be another player looking to make his mark.
Apart from selection concerns, the loss in the T20Is was also India’s first at home under Virat Kohli’s captaincy. India are a proud outfit, and this would have hurt them. The ODIs present an opportunity to avenge that defeat, an ICC report said.
Australia, meanwhile, have no immediate concerns. They still have a five-match series in the United Arab Emirates to come after this, and can further fine-tune their plans then. Their only change is likely to be behind the stumps, where Alex Carey will don the gloves instead of Peter Handscomb. Justin Langer, their head coach, said the team wouldn’t push Glenn Maxwell up the order – he been batting at No. 7 mostly in ODIs – despite his supreme form.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohamed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant, Sidharth Kaul, KL Rahul
Australia: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey (wk), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, D Arcy Short, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye.