This three-match India vs Australia series is really a chance to fine tune the the final playing XIs for both the sides ahead of the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup. It is a chance to find out what your final combinations. At the same time, it is also important for players to be mentally fresh for the long campaign. India have done a balancing act of giving rest to some big players while still zeroing in on some of the players related to key spots. India have rested Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav. R Ashwin, Washington Sundar and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been included in the squad, at the same time. They want to make sure that on the one hand, you are trying out different players to finetune the squad and on the other, resting players who need that break.
In modern day cricket, we don’t always give too much importance to mental fitness. Not to forget, India plays nonstop cricket, and it does have an impact on the players. Sometimes mental fitness gets forgotten. The World Cup is a long tournament and with so much cricket happening, they have done the right th ing to give some big players the break.
There were lots of positives for India from Asia Cup 2023. Hardik Pandya bowled and batted well. Jasprit Bumrah completed a fine ODI comeback and looks in fine rhythm. Mohammed Siraj has guaranteed his spot with that mind-blowing spell in the final. Kuldeep continues to maintain good form.
The India vs Australia series is going to be a big one for Shreyas Iyer. He missed out the chance to play enough games in Asia Cup due to injury. He looks fit and raring to go again . Iyer is a very important part for India’s batting lineup, at the number 4 spot. These are potentially three important games for him, and he must make them count. He would want to spend some time in the middle. Hopefully, from India’s perspective, Iyer will find some form by the end of the series. It will also be a big series for Suryakumar Yadav, who has not been among runs in ODIs. Truth is that he has not been able to crack the one-day format yet and India would want their backup middle-order batter to hit form before the World Cup.
Another talking point is the return of R Ashwin. He is returning after a gap of almost one-and-ahalf years to the ODIs. The team management is asking him to come to the ODIs and give his best, which is going to be a huge challenge for him, right before the World Cup. However experienced Ashwin is, one wonders if he could have played a little more in the lead up to the World Cup. Knowing Ashwin, this is exactly the kind of challenge he relishes taking. It will be fascinating to see how he goes in this series.
One is assuming that a fit-again Axar Patel will be going to the World Cup. But let’s see how Ashwin as well as other backup spin-bowling all-rounder Washington Sundar go in the ODI series and whether their good show has any impact on the final squad.
I think India know what their best XI is. The only question to answer is whether this XI plays well together consistently. Playing this series and warmups before the World Cup will help this cause.
I feel that this series benefits Australia more than India. They are coming to India from a completely different conditions in South Africa. They are back to the full-strength squad with Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc and Steve Smith returning to the fold from respective injuries. Travis Head’s injury is a big blow to them though. It will be interesting to see whether the opening batter can make a comeback in time or not.
I have seen a bit of Spencer Johnson and am excited to see how he goes. He is one to keep an eye out for. I have seen a lot of him in the domestic summer in England and he is eye-catching, he is quick. He is someone who can make an impact. His selection to the final XI, however, will be dependent on the fitness of other pacers.
This series also provides a terrific opportunity for the Australians to get used to the conditions ahead of the World Cup. A lot of the players have played a lot of cricket in India already but it is always a plus if you can play as much as possible in the same conditions the upcoming big tournament is to be played in.