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Focus on Iyer, Ashwin as World Cup dress rehearsal kicks off

Last updated on 21 Sep 2023 | 10:29 AM
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Focus on Iyer, Ashwin as World Cup dress rehearsal kicks off

India have less than three ODIs to figure out their ODI World Cup squad, and the biggest challenge lies in front - Australia

Change is the only constant

For some, change is a good thing, and for others, it is the only thing they have been dreading for some time now. Shreyas Iyer is itching to return after a back spasm that ruled him out of a majority of Asia Cup games. 

“I would say 99% he should be okay as of now, but he looks good,” is what Indian skipper Rohit Sharma had to say on Iyer’s return. 

And so are Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar, who are auditioning for a place ahead of the 2023 ODI World Cup. Experience isn’t something that can be bought at a market, hence the decision to include the 113-ODI veteran Ashwin. 

With no Axar Patel for the first two ODIs, it allows both Ashwin and Sundar to showcase their skills, almost like a face-off between the two. Given that there is no Virat Kohli for the first two ODIs, it also allows Iyer to play at No.3 and gain more game time during his well-awaited return. 

Ground Details and Conditions

The first of the three-match ODI series will be played in Mohali at the IS Bindra Stadium. Incidentally, India’s last ODI and T20I at the venue was here in Mohali against Australia. Additionally, they were on the losing side both times by four wickets. 

Conditions in Mohali have been generally batter-friendly. Since 2015, the average first innings score at the venue has been 345, but teams wanting to defend a total have generally preferred a score of close to 390. Two out of three times in the same time frame, teams have successfully chased down a target. 

While Mohali is generally a batting-friendly venue, only pacers have got meaningful results with the ball, with 27 wickets, compared to 13 from the spinners. 

Things to watch out for

Will India pick two off-spinners in the same XI?

For the longest time, India were okay with not having an off-spinner in the squad. But given how there is no shortage of left-handed batters in world cricket, India have felt the need for an off-spinner. Since 2022, six out of the ten top batters against India have been left-handers. 

Be it Quinton de Kock, Devon Conway, Michael Bracewell or Tom Latham, they have always posed problems to the Indian bowling attack. That’s where the re-introduction of Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar makes a lot of sense. 

Sundar solves a lot of Indian problems, an additional left-handed batter and an offie, but from a bowling viewpoint, there is none better than Ashwin. Ashwin averages 25.3 against left-handers, and with the World Cup looming around the corner, India will want to test the waters. 

Shreyas Iyer’s much-awaited return for India

The last time Shreyas Iyer batted in an Indian jersey, he looked sublime, but that stay was short-lived when he pulled the ball straight into the hands of Fakhar Zaman. Despite being included in the next game against Nepal, a batting opportunity evaded the right-hander before a back spasm ruled him out of the subsequent games. 

All eyes will be on Iyer, especially now after what KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan have done with the bat. There is a serious chance that Iyer might miss out on a spot in India’s playing XI for the ODI World Cup. But for that to not happen, he has to make the fullest use of the upcoming three ODIs that will test his fitness levels. 

Warner-Marsh locked for World Cup?

Travis Head’s injury has really ruined Australia’s World Cup plans. It also has left them in a fix about their openers ahead of the showpiece event in India. But with Mitchell Marsh having found success at the top of the order previously, it will be Australia’s go-to option. 

Marsh has opened on four occasions for Australia, averaging 88.33 across the four games. By accident, it was also the India series earlier in the year when the right-handed opened for the first time in ODI cricket. Barring the 47 against India in Chennai, Marsh has crossed the 50-run mark in all the other clashes. 

Injuries haunt Australia

It isn’t just his consistency that has earned him praise, with his aggression often setting the other team on fire. His strike-rate as an opener is almost 130, and in Head’s absence, India will have to deal with his firepower at the top of the order. 

Tactical Nous

- David Warner hasn’t faced a lot of Ashwin in ODI cricket (15 runs off 19 balls), and that’s perhaps a big shock. But across other formats, the off-spinner has a wood over the left-hander. Ashwin has dismissed Warner the joint-most times (5) in T20s, with Warner having a strike-rate of 123 against him. Marsh, too, has been dismissed once by Ashwin, which could make a prime option to bowl with the new ball.

- India will be concerned about Ravindra Jadeja’s form with the bat. The left-handed batter averages 24.86 in ODIs since 2021, but that isn’t even the worst. The worst thing about his batting is the strike-rate (57.6), and he has also failed to score a single fifty. Australia would want to put Jadeja under pressure with the bat yet again. 

Probable XIs

Australia skipper Pat Cummins confirmed that the duo of Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell will be unavailable for the opening ODI against India. With Head injured, expect Marsh to open in a rejigged Australian unit. 

Australia’s Probable XI: Mitchell Marsh, David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Sean Abbott, Pat Cummins (c), Josh Hazlewood / Spencer Johnson, Adam Zampa

India, on the other hand, will be captained by KL Rahul in a team that has plenty of changes when compared to the playing XI that played in the Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka. 

India’s Probable XI: Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan (wk), Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur/Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami

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