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After Test high, India begin final preparations for World Cup

Press Trust of India  |  Sydney 

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

Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul has provided a big distraction for the Indian team by making "inappropriate" comments on women during a TV show.

In the build-up to the first ODI, underlined that the team management is still waiting for a decision to be made regarding a ban or punishment to be meted out to the two players.

The team management didn't announce a shortlist for this game, as is now the norm, and will wait to hear from the BCCI on the two players' availability. Considering the enormity of this developing situation, it is unlikely that both Pandya and Rahul will be available for at least the first ODI.

Rahul was unlikely to get a go owing to both his poor form and the presence of a well-settled opening pair in and Shikhar Dhawan. The bigger question though is regarding Pandya's absence, for the all-rounder provides crucial balance to the ODI side with his ability to bowl 10 overs as well as bat in the middle order.

Pandya's absence could mean that might have to rejig their 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 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.

In such a scenario, and are expected to get the nod, as continue zeroing on the pace quartet for squad. There is a sprinkling of grass on the SCG pitch and it could push the Indian 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. In that light, he would partner up with left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav as India's five-pronged attack, with fulfilling any part-time duties if needed.

With the two openers, and Kohli at number three, the remaining batting line-up picks itself. Jadhav, Dhoni and will form the middle order, and there will be keen interest in the latter duo's form here.

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.

The Indian middle-order has often come unstuck with Dhoni at the crease, and the team management will be hoping for a fiery start to the year from the stalwart.

India brought in Rayudu for the all-important number four role, and since the Asia Cup last September, have given him a long run in the middle order. In this interim, Rayudu scored 392 runs in 11 ODIs in the Asia Cup and against at average 56 including a hundred and three half-centuries.

While he put in a more consistent showing than any of the other previously tried contenders, this run came in conditions different from those in England. As such, how Rayudu fares on this twin tour of and will be a closer representation of whether the Indian team has finally cracked the number four quandary.

Similar middle-order issues plagued the visitors when they last toured here for an ODI contest, losing 4-1 in January 2016 when Dhoni was still Sharma and Kohli topped the charts with 441 and 381 runs in the five-match series, respectively, while Dhawan also scored 287 runs.

But there were no sizeable contributions from the middle, and only Manish Pandey's fighting hundred in the final ODI had saved India from a 5-0 scoreline.

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

The absence of (220 runs in three matches in 2016) and (315 runs in five matches in 2016) might help them again though, as also the absence of Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood, with the trio rested from this series.

Australia have named their playing eleven ahead of the first ODI, with featuring as the lone spinner and returning to this format for the first time since 2010. Keeper-batsman will open in ODI for the first time, and will pair up with Aaron Finch, while Usman Khawaja, and will form the middle order.

The hosts bat deep with and 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 will make his ODI debut on Saturday.

Teams:

India: (c), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami,

Australia (playing XI): (c), (wk), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Jhye Richardson,

Match starts 7.50 am IST.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 11 2019. 11:30 IST
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