The One-Day International series is done and dusted and the focus now shifts to the format that is largely going to be the centre of attraction for the next 10 months. India are set to play three Twenty20 Internationals against Australia, starting Friday (December 4) at Manuka Oval, Canberra, and the series would serve as a perfect platform for both the teams to get their act together and build a side for next year's T20 World Cup.
Virat Kohli and Co. were thumped 2-1 in the ODI series but will try to build on the momentum they gained after managing to earn a consolation win in the third and final encounter at the same venue. It was pretty evident that India struggled to get their combination right in the ODI series and that's probably going to be the same case in the forthcoming T20Is. Meanwhile, Australia look much more settled and balanced, but they will be without a couple of key players and would also be wary of the match-winners India possess.
INDIA'S PRECARIOUS TEAM COMBINATION
With Hardik Pandya not bowling, no matter what team combination India go with, they would have to make a compromise in one of the two departments. If they decide to go with an extra batsman, India would have only five bowling options and that didn't quite work out for them in the ODI series. The likes of Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer don't bowl at all, which means they would have to rely on their five frontline bowlers to do the job and that could come back to haunt them.
The other option India have is to bat Washington Sundar at No. 7, which means Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja would have to bat at 5 and 6 respectively. The two have been in great batting form of late and it won't be a bad idea to thrust more responsibilities on their capable shoulders. They could then play Deepak Chahar to ensure there is some batting after No. 7. The right-arm seamer could prove to be lethal with the new ball and that would allow the likes of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and T Natarajan to bowl in the latter half of the innings. That would also allow the visiting side to rotate Shami and Bumrah and give them ample rest ahead of the Test series.
IYER OR PANDEY, OR NEITHER?
Both Iyer and Pandey are of a similar mould and India can't afford to have them both in the XI. In Rahul, Dhawan and Kohli, India have a solid top-three, who could also play the anchor's role if needed. Iyer and Pandey had a pretty decent IPL in terms of runs scored but their strike rates were in the 120s and you can't afford that in the middle-order. The two prefer batting higher up the order and playing both of them won't be a great idea.
India could also use someone like Sanju Samson at No. 4. The stylish right-hander is a bit inconsistent but is way more aggressive than Iyer and Pandey. Samson has only played four T20Is, so it won't be ideal to compare their numbers at the international level, but when it comes to the IPL, the batsman from Rajasthan Royals has a way better strike rate.
AUSTRALIA'S PLETHORA OF ALL-ROUNDERS
There are some injury concerns in the Australian camp but the home side have got some fantastic white-ball players. While India are running short of all-rounders, Australia have got way too many players who could chip in with both bat and ball. The likes of Moises Henriques, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar and Cameron Green are proper all-rounders. Meanwhile, batsmen like Glenn Maxwell, D'Arcy Short and Marnus Labuschagne too can roll their arms over if needed.
Then you have bowlers like Daniel Sams and Sean Abbott who are no mug with the bat either. Make no mistake, Australia have got some phenomenal specialists in both departments. The likes of Aaron Finch, Steven Smith, Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa were brilliant in the ODI series, but these match-winning all-rounders are the ones that make Australia a formidable unit in the shortest format of the game.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), D'Arcy Short, Steven Smith, Cameron Green, Moises Henriques/Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Daniel Sams/Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa.
(*Stoinis and Starc's availability subject to fitness)
India: KL Rahul (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer/Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami/T Natarajan, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.