Whenever India and Australia play each other, the air is always filled with a lot of excitement. We saw the crazy build-up for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2023 and while the first two Tests were one-sided affairs, Australia did show a lot of fight in the last two matches. The Tests are in the past now. We are now talking about the ODIs. And there is massive rivalry between these two sides even in this format of the game. However, some scenarios don’t change for Australians even in coloured clothing. We are talking about the injuries. Imagine being on a tough tour to India and then losing players one by one. Aussies were deeply hurt, in the Tests, by the cricketers falling prey to injuries. Josh Hazlewood, Cameron Green, Mitchell Starc and David Warner. There was one blow after the other. The tourists faced more heat when captain Pat Cummins had to rightly leave for home to be with his ailing mother, who unfortunately passed away a few days later. The Australian camp was under a lot of pressure, and they did well to ensure the series finished 2-1 and not 4-0 in favour of India.
However, the fitness scenario has not changed much. Australia are in an interesting position right now with Hazlewood and Jhye Richardson out due to injuries and some injured cricketers making a comeback in form of David Warner and Glenn Maxwell. At the same time, you have new faces, who have not really played a lot of cricket in India – Green, Nathan Ellis, Josh Inglis, Sean Abott. On top of that, the routine captain Cummins is missing. Despite the challenges that the squad throws at them, Australia know that they still have a quality side to pose a threat to India.
It is not easy to win here. India are a powerful side. Additionally, the crowd, the heat, the pitches make it even tougher. I am not saying Aussies are going to get similar pitch conditions like Indore but sometimes the nature of the track can surprise you. It may seam and swing more in Mumbai before Chennai presents you with a spin-friendly track. As a touring side, the biggest challenge in India is to adjust to the weather, the pitch, and the crowd and adapt accordingly.
India, on the other hand, will have Rohit Sharma missing for the first ODI. Australia would not mind as this way, they have one experienced Indian batter less to deal with, at least for one match. However, Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill, who are expected to open batting for India in first match, can be equally dangerous. It was not a long time ago that the two smashed respective double tons in gap of just 30 days.
Shreyas Iyer is out of the series due to the back injury that has continued to trouble him for the last 6 months but don’t think we can call his absence a big miss. India have a massive talent pool and when one player is unavailable for whatever reason, there is another equally equipped cricketer ready to replace him. The fight for the places is that close.
Players to watch out for
I understand that this is an ODI World Cup but it is also important to note that the tournament is still far, in October. Both sides must not think too much about the World Cup squad and give the players the best chance to prove themselves. In that regard, I am eagerly looking forward to watch the likes of Inglis, Ellis, Umran Malik and Washington Sundar play. They are all young and future stars of their countries and deserve more opportunities to show their talent.
Coming to the veterans, it will be interesting to see how Warner goes as well as Virat Kohli. Warner, at 36, is not getting any younger. He had a difficult time in the Tests before a hairline fracture in his elbow ruled him out of the series. He has a lot to prove, both fitness and performance wise. One thing is for sure that Australia need him in the World Cup but they also wouldn’t want a Warner past his best. Knowing Warner, one senses he is hungry for runs and has this habit of proving his critics wrong, is known for strong comebacks. It would be interesting to see whether one more comeback is left in his career or not.
Kohli, at the same time, has found touch across all formats in last 6 months. His comeback began last year in Asia Cup and since then he has looked on top his craft. The runs were hard to come by in Tests but he found his mojo back finally in Ahmedabad. He has made many runs in the last six months across formats and must be looking at the upcoming three-match series to hit the peak form that he once used to be known for. India need that same old Kohli in this World Cup year. This is just the right time to shake up the beast in him.