India begin final preparations for WC

FOREVER, A STAR: Fans take selfies with India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni (left) prior to the team's training session in Sydney on Friday. AFP

Hit hard by an unexpected controversy after the high of the Test triumph, India will look to fine tune their World Cup preparations in the three-match ODI series against an under-fire Australia, beginning here on Saturday.

On the eve of the opening game, the BCCI suspended Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul pending an inquiry for their unsavoury remarks on women during a TV show, effectively ruling them out of the series.

While Pandya was a certainty in the playing XI, an out-of-form Rahul was not in contention to play on Saturday.

Rahul was unlikely to get a go owing to both his poor form and the presence of a well-settled opening pair in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. 

Pandya's absence means India will have to rejig their bowling attack. Jasprit Bumrah has already been rested for this series, as well as the tour of New Zealand, and this allows the think-tank to conduct one final experimentation with their bowling attack.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a shoe-in, and thereafter it depends if Kohli wants to go in with a three-man pace attack to compensate for Pandya's loss.

Mohammed Shami and Khaleel Ahmed could get the nod, as India continue zeroing on the pace quartet for the World Cup squad. There is a sprinkling of grass on the SCG pitch and it could push the Indian skipper to opt for a three-pacer and two-spinner combination. Kohli also stated that, in Pandya’s absence, Ravindra Jadeja would step up as the all-rounder.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni had an off-colour 2018, managing 275 runs in 20 ODIs at average 25 without a half-century. While this is a meagre return for a batsman of his stature, the worrying aspect is Dhoni's strike-rate of 71.42, which is remarkably lower than his ODI career strike-rate of 87.89.

India’s ODI record in Australia is quite poor. Apart from the 1985 World Championship and 2008 CB Series wins, they have lost 35 out of 48 ODIs played against Australia on their home soil.

The absence of David Warner and Steve Smith might help them again though, as also the absence of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, with the trio rested from this series.

Australia have named their playing eleven ahead of the first ODI, with Nathan Lyon featuring as the lone spinner and Peter Siddle returning to this format for the first time since 2010. Keeper-batsman Alex Carey will open in ODI cricket for the first time, and will pair up with skipper Aaron Finch, while Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb will form the middle order.

The hosts bat deep with Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell lined up at numbers six and seven, albeit their pace attack seems weak on paper. With Siddle returning to the format after eight years, left-arm pacer Jason Behrendorff will make his ODI debut on Saturday.

Teams: India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj.

Australia (playing XI): Aaron Finch (captain), Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff.

 

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India begin final preparations for WC

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