The trailer is over, now it is time for the main event. However entertaining and closely fought the two T-20 internationals were there is little doubt that the series of five ODIs between India and Australia commencing at Hyderabad on Saturday is much more important. Any contest between these two teams has its share of drama and excitement but what gives this series an added edge is the fact that it is the last major fixture for both teams before the mega event – the World Cup that starts in England on May 30.
Don’t go by the rankings which have India at No 2 and Australia at No 6. This is going to be a keen contest with every game potentially being a last over finish and the series itself could well go down to the wire. Even a cursory glance at the team personnel will unveil that both sides have strokeplaying batsmen and big hitters, able utility men and accurate and incisive bowlers – all ingredients that virtually assure a sparkling contest.
From the Indian viewpoint the series will be doubly important for the fringe players. While the nucleus of the World Cup side is very much in place, there are also a couple of players who might make the cut while a couple of others might just miss out. A good performance during the series could just about see them make the trip to England for the showpiece event.
Ideally the Indian team should consist of seven batsmen (including the wicketkeeper), two utility players, two spinners and four fast bowlers. But if one of the utility players can double up as an additional seam bowler then three fast bowlers should suffice. The seven batsmen should normally be Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant. The fact that Dinesh Karthik is not in the squad to play Australia puts him at a disadvantage and he could only get in now provided Rahul is a failure.
Automatic choice for the two spinners should be Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Hardik Pandya is certain as a utility player and it remains to be seen whether the selectors will want to fit in one or both Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav in this category too. The three fast bowlers surely should be Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The fringe players would appear to be besides Karthik, Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja.
Australia too have their share of certainties and fringe players and will hope that they have a settled side for the World Cup by the time the series ends. In the meantime however it is time for high voltage action over the next two weeks.