There is no doubt that India must be disappointed with the outcome of the Asia Cup and some crucial losses in the tournament. But it is also true that there were a number of positives which India took away despite the early exit. One of them is that India’s playing XI, ahead of the T20 World Cup, is taking shape nicely.
The 3 T20Is vs Australia will provide an opportunity to Rohit Sharma and Co to play the best playing XI consistently. The way I see it, the batting lineup looks alright. Rohit, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli in top 3. Then Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya to follow. However, the number 7 position remains a point of contention now with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja ruled out of the T20 World Cup 2022 due to injury. That is the only question India needs to answer and hopefully they will find one in the upcoming series.
There are a number of contenders for the position. There 4 real contenders, in my view. They are Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Deepak Hooda and Dinesh Karthik. All of them have the merit to play on that position. However, if I were the Indian captain, I would go with Axar. Because I think he fits the Jadeja role slightly better than others.
Axar over Karthik
Karthik can be the finisher for India but I think at the moment, him making a massive contribution to the side is limited. I always think you need an extra bowling option, more so when you are not certain whether Hardik will bowl his full quota of overs or not.
I personally think you need that 6th bowling option. So, I am excluding Karthik based on that logic. Hooda, on the other hand, is more of a batter who can bowl a few overs, but his skillset does not fit him at No 7. That is why I am going with Axar. Of all the contenders for this position, he has got the greatest chance of making an impact and contribution to the side. At No 7, a batter is likely to get little chance to make the same impact.
Moving forward, the bowling lineup looks pretty established to me. There is Harshal Patel and Jasprit Bumrah making a comeback. Yuzvendra Chahal will always play.
There is a debate over who between Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar should play as both are similar-looking fast bowlers. Without a shadow of doubt, I will choose Bhuvi. Look at his wrist position. He gets the ball to talk. He swings it, hits the seam regularly. For me, he is an absolute certainty. Additionally, I think Bhuvi is a huge player. The experience and calmness under pressure is what I like in Bhuvi. He sets the tone really well at the start. That lineup with Bhuvi, Bumrah, Harshal, Chahal and Axar with Hardik is a strong lineup.
Virat Kohli’s return to form a huge boost
Another huge plus for India from Asia Cup was Kohli’s maiden T20I hundred vs Afghanistan. The fact that he is scoring runs consistently must have calmed some nerves in the Indian dressing room. He is a big player and some runs under the belt before a mega event like World Cup would have filled him with a lot of confidence.
Watch out for Tim David and Nathan Ellis
As far as Australia are concerned, they have got many players who are playing a lot of cricket these days, which is a good sign. They recently played against Zimbabwe and New Zealand and now face India on their home soil. Many of their players have been busy playing in England as well.
Skipper Aaron Finch would want some runs under the belt before he bows out. Very important series for him heading into the World Cup. I am a massive fan of Nathan Ellis. Both in the middle overs and in the end. He is making himself one of the very best in closing out an innings. Ellis will be someone to look out for in these 3 matches.
Tim David will be a great acquisition for any team. For Australia, that’s a huge acquisition. He is a terrific player who adds a lot to the batting lineup. How Aussies use him in the series would be interesting to watch. Whether they use him as a floater or at the top with plenty of overs in his hand. Also, David and Maxwell going together will be exciting to watch.
My eyes will be on Josh Hazlewood as well. He is a much-improved bowler in this format as he has shown in the last couple of years and would be eager to leave a mark in this series. With Mitchell Starc missing out, Cummins and Hazlewood will be key pacers for Australia.
Australia are in a good place. They are the defending champions. I think this will be an amazing series between the world champions and the World No 1. The conditions will be different than Australia here but the series is a good way to challenge each other before the World Cup arrives.