India will take on Australia in five-match ODI series preceded by two T20Is that commence from February 24. It will be the final chance for India to get their act together as, after this series, India’s next international assignment will be the 50-overs World Cup. Australian cricket might be on a decline but they are still the reigning champions and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are considered certainties in the team for the World Cup. But for others spots team India are in a fix.
There is still a question mark on India’s reserve opener especially after India dropped Rahul in controversial circumstances. Shubman Gill was in New Zealand as a back-up opener but after his lackluster performances, Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul are back in contention. KL Rahul looked in fine form in the four-day games against the England Lions scoring 89 and 81 in the last two knocks while Rahane’s was back in headlines after chief Indian selector, MSK Prasad revealed that he is pretty much in the plans.
For the spot of reserve wicket-keeper, there is stiff competition between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik. It is likely that both will be tried and tested in the upcoming Australia series. Rishabh Pant impressed with 40 and 28 in the second and third T20I internationals in New Zealand. Karthik also has been doing well in the white-ball format as a finisher, for a while now.
Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami have nailed their World Cup spots, but there is a four-way race for the place of the fourth seamer. Khaleel Ahmed, Jaydev Unadkat, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj are the four contenders.
Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj have been disappointing. There is a suggestion that India might field Unadkat in Australia series and there is a toss-up between him and Khaleel. The Saurashtra pacer, Unadkat has experience and also provides the variation of a left-arm pacer. Umesh Yadav has also thrown his hat in the ring with impressive displays in Vidarbha’s Ranji trophy win.
Krunal Pandya was Man-of-the-Match in the second T20I against New Zealand while he displayed supreme power-hitting the series-decider but there are no indications to a two-way battle between like-for-like players, Ravindra Jadeja and Krunal Pandya for the slot of spinning all-rounder.
Men in Blue are likely to field their strongest squad in initial games. But in the latter part of the series, we might see experimentation in full-swing with India trying to get their best possible combination going in the World Cup.
Indian skipper, Virat Kohli will be back in action after being rested for the final two ODIs and the whole of three-match T20I series against New Zealand.
The squad for the series will be picked by MSK Prasad-led senior selection committee on Friday, February 15.
First choice: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Khaleel Ahmed.
Options for a part of the series (Last two/three ODIs): Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami.