11 January 2019
Sydney: After the high of the first-ever Test series win Down Under, India would look to put aside the unexpected controversy involving two players and fine tune their World Cup preparations in the three-match ODI series against an under-fire Australia, beginning here on Saturday.
Ahead of the start of the limited-overs series, all-rounder Hardik Pandya and top-order batsman Lokesh Rahul provided a big distraction for the Indian team by making "inappropriate" comments on women at a popular television chat show.
However, even if the duo are excluded from the playing XI, it is unlikely to have a big impact on performance. With the top-order combination unlikely to see changes barring injury, Rahul has slim chances of getting a look in even if he is up for selection.
Pandya is more of a white ball specialist as a pace bowling all-rounder and it remains to be seen if the Indian team management decides to include him in the playing XI in the face of widespread controversy over his alleged sexist and crass remarks on a television talk show.
In the build-up to the first ODI, India skipper Virat Kohli underlined that the team management is still waiting for a decision to be made regarding a ban or punishment to be meted out to the two players.
The three match series is a good chance to get the combination right for the much awaited World Cup to be played in England.
Several limited-over players returned to the squad. Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuzvendra Chahal joined the ODI squad and would like to contribute handsomely along with skipper Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who were present in the Test series.
The top-order seemed settled with the likes of Kohli, Rohit, Rayudu and Dhawan. The team has Dhoni and Jadhav who could turn the match at will.
In case Pandya is left out, Ravindra Jadeja will probably replace the Baroda all-rounder and partner left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav in India's five-pronged bowling attack, with Kedar Jadhav fulfilling any part-time bowling duties if needed.
Much attention will also be on former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who will like get some runs under his belt as he is expected to be one of the vital cogs in India's campaign at this year's ODI World Cup.
The World Cup winning skipper has managed 275 runs in his last 20 ODIs at an average 25 without a half-century. The worrying aspect is Dhoni's strike-rate of 71.42, which is remarkably lower than his ODI career strike-rate of 87.89.
In the bowling department, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav will bolster the spin department which will play the crucial role in the series. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami along with rookies Mohammad Siraj and K. Khaleel Ahmed will take care of the pace department. Jasprit Bumrah, who shone with the ball in the Test series, has been rested.
Australia, on the other hand, will play with two all-rounders. Pacer Peter Siddle will also feature for the first time in the ODI team since November 2010.
In the bowling department, pacers Siddle, Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendorff might play a crucial role. Star off-spinner Nathan Lyon will lead the spin department along with part-timer Glenn Maxwell.
The Australian batting department has witnessed a major change. Adam Zampa failed to make the cut in the playing XI.
Apart from that, Australia will open their innings with skipper Aaron Finch and wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey. Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb to follow.
When it comes to the record books, India have played 16 matches against Australia here and has won only two and the last time both teams played at this venue, It was India who emerged victorious.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Siraj, K. Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch (captain), Alex Carey (wk) Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff.