CHENNAI: Australia have given India a run for their money over one-and-a-half months across formats. And now, as the tour comes to a close in Chennai with an ODI ‘final’, there’s no lack of context.
It’s a direct shootout and the Aussies have a chance to become the first team in five years to beat India in a home ODI series (India’s last loss coming against the Aussies in 2018-19). Given the fact that India and Australia will play the World Test Championship final in June and then there’s an ODI World Cup at the end of the year, there are definitely a few psychological points to be scored as well.
The Aussies, of course, are on a high after a rare 10-wicket mauling of the hosts in Vizag. They are unlikely to tinker much with the playing XI, even though David Warner batted for quite a while at the nets on Tuesday. But it’s difficult to see him playing the game ahead of Travis Head, unless of course, the visitors treat this game more as a scope for experiment than a ‘final’.
India, though, ruled out any experimentation. “There is no scope for experiments. Even in the last game, Axar Patel‘s inclusion as the third spinner (ahead of Shardul Thakur as the fourth pacer) wasn’t an experiment,” coach Rahul Dravid said. He understands the backlash that usually gets attached to a series loss at home and the coach isn’t in the mood to take chances.
Dealing with Starc
Prime on India’s agenda will be how to deal with left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc, who has taken eight wickets in the series so far and ran away with the second ODI. “The pitch in the first ODI was quite challenging, but the second definitely wasn’t a 117 all out track. This pitch looks good and even though Starc is bowling really well, we should be in a position to deal with him,” Dravid said.
For that to happen, the top-order has to find ways of surviving against the paceman. While Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma have fallen to the ball leaving them, Virat Kohli and Surya Kumar Yadav are struggling against the incoming ball. “Surya fell to two good balls, we have to give him a little more time in ODIs,” Dravid said.
Stopping the Marsh assault
While Starc’s heroics have been the talk of the ODI series so far, Mitchell Marsh’s scintillating batting as an opener has gone a little under the radar. He smashed 81 off 65 balls in the first match and followed it up with a 66* off 36 balls in the second.
The allrounder, playing solely as a batsman in the series, has left the impression that he can run away with the game and India need to send him back early. Given the fact that the Chennai track can help spinners early on, it would be interesting to see if Rohit Sharma looks to use Ravindra Jadeja or Axar Patel against the right-hander early on.
Dew could be a factor
While the pitch doesn’t have much for pacers, one understands that the ball will tend to stop a bit as the game progresses. And then, the dew, too, could come into play. In that case, playing three spinners could just be a risky proposition.
Even though Dravid hinted that chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav would play if there are three spinners, Shardul as the fourth pacer could just be a safer bet. His CSK stint has given him a fair indication of the Chepauk conditions and his batting, too, can come in handy. The fact that Shardul has the ability to bowl the wide yorkers at the crunch could make him a viable option in a pressure game that India would absolutely hate to lose.