Yuvraj, Dhawan will corner all the attention

Left-handed duo has plenty at stake in todays second match under lights

Yuvraj, Dhawan will corner all the attention

After the wash-out in Kochi, both India and Australia will look for nothing less than a victory in Wednesday’s day-night one-dayer here, the reward being the knowledge that victory on the morrow will assure at least a share of the series spoils.
 
While a series win against the world’s number one one-day side might be the immediate priority for the Men in Blue, this will also serve as the first trial to finalise their squad for the World Cup early next year. As India look to plug the gaps in their combination in the run-up to the mega event, this match could offer broad hints about what options the team’s think-tank is mulling at.

Viewed from that perspective, Wednesday’s match will be critical for two left-handers, Yuvraj Singh and Shikhar Dhawan, both of whom are almost certain to figure in the final 11 at the swank YSR cricket stadium.

Yuvraj hasn’t been amongst runs for some time now while Dhawan -- fresh from his eye-catching exploits in the Indian Premier League, Champions League and the Challengers – will be making his India debut.

The last time Yuvraj played here, against Sri Lanka in 2007, he was the lynchpin of India’s win with an unbeaten 95. Three years on, the Punjab batsman returns to the same venue fighting to save his place in the side. Dropped from the Test squad and under scrutiny for his poor run in the one-dayers, this will be a crucial series for the swashbuckling batsman.

Coming into this series on the back of a violent double ton against Mumbai in the Irani Cup and subsequent failure in the Challengers in Indore the following week, Yuvraj will be feeling the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. He is no greenhorn, but it remains to be seen if the 28-year-old will able to conquer the demons in his own mind.    
Dhawan’s moment

For Dhawan, it’s pressure of a different kind. He has been consistently been amongst runs and a place in the national squad is just reward. Being an opener, Dhawan’s spot in the side isn’t guaranteed even if he performs well, at least in the near future, for there are three strong contenders for the two opening slots – Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.

But the Delhi batsman will do his cause no harm at all if he can come up with some good shows to put himself in contention as and when the opportunity beckons in future.

It will be interesting to see if Dhoni keeps his faith in the tried and tested, but not always successful, Ravindra Jadeja, or opts for off-spinning all-rounder R Ashwin. Dhoni has also spoken of trying out a big hitter in the lower-order, which means a toss-up between Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Saurabh Tiwary for two batting slots.

Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel are more or less certain to man the fast-bowling department while Dhoni will have to rely upon part-timers to complete the fifth bowler’s job.

Australia, meanwhile, received a shot in the arm when paceman Doug Bollinger had a long bowl during their practice session in the afternoon.  Though Michael Clarke cast a doubt over the left-armer’s availability, his stint in the ‘nets’ must have come as an encouraging sign. The visitors may have been thumped in the Tests, but it’s going to be a different ball game in the one-dayers.

While Australia have had quite a few one-day specialist reinforcements, India are without some of their key members.  

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Saurabh Tiwary, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, R Vinay Kumar.

Australia: Michael Clarke (capt), Cameron White, David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Callum Ferguson, James Hopes, Mike Hussey, Tim Paine, Clint McKay, Doug Bollinger, Steve Smith, Nathan Hauritz, Mitchell Starc, John Hastings.

Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Shahvir Tarapore. Third umpire: Sudhir Asnani. Match referee: Chris Broad.

Hours of play: 1430-1800 hours and 1845-end of play.

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