Weakened Australia headed for thrashing in India

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By , Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Australia will start their five-match ODI series in India on Sunday with a vastly weakened attack, missing their two best bowlers as well as their second-highest wicket taker from last year.

    The tourists will be without the world’s number one-ranked ODI bowler Josh Hazlewood, as well as the best white-ball bowler on the planet, Mitchell Starc.

    Further weakening Australia is the injury-prompted absence of accurate seamer John Hastings, who was the second leading wicket-taker worldwide in ODIs last year, with 29 wickets at an average of 24.

    Currently the number two ODI side, Australia could regain the top ranking with a comprehensive series win. More likely, based on the attack they will field, Australia will be comfortably beaten and could potentially slide down into fourth spot, below England, if the Poms sweep the Windies in their series.

    Figures from the past three years show that when Starc plays Australia have had a phenomenal 33-7 win-loss record, but when he’s not on the field their record has been 10-12.

    It is not just Starc who Australia lean upon, but their pace attack as a whole. When they have their first-choice pace line-up of Starc, Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, they have a truly intimidating presence, even in these batsman-dominated days.

    As we saw last year, when the Aussies were hammered 5-0 in South Africa, if you remove that trio Australia are vulnerable. Prior to that tour, I flagged they were headed for a humiliation due to the weakness of their attack.

    While the bowling unit for the series in India is not as frail, it looks ill-equipped to combat the ballistic batting power of India on flat pitches in small grounds.

    Starc and Hazlewood both are out injured, and Cummins may well be used sparingly. An injury-prone cricketer, Cummins bowled to exhaustion in the second Test in Bangladesh when he was Australia’s sole pace option.

    Just ten weeks out from the Ashes, gun quicks Starc, Hazlewood and James Pattinson already are injured, so Australia surely will want to manage Cummins’ workload. It will surprise me if he doesn’t sit out at least two of the matches.

    That would leave Australia with the flimsy pace unit of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson and James Faulkner against a batting line-up which routinely devours attacks on home soil.

    Coulter-Nile is the pick of that group, having done well in his brief ODI career and fresh from a fantastic Indian Premier League campaign, during which he took 15 wickets at 15. But he will surely be rusty, with his last List A appearance being 15 months ago.

    Nathan Coulter-Nile

    Nathan Coulter-Nile (AFP / Tony Ashby)

    Richardson has battled to adapt to international cricket, averaging 39 with the ball from his 12 ODIs. Were they all available, Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins, Coulter-Nile, Faulkner, Hastings, Pattinson, Jason Behrendorff, Chris Tremain and Joel Paris would all be better options.

    As for Faulkner, against every other international team, he has averaged a very good 26 with the ball across his ODI career. However, this spikes to 46 in his 16 matches against India and, even more worryingly, his economy rate against them is extraordinarily high at 6.57 runs per over (compared to 5.2 against every other team).

    The Indian batsmen are familiar with Faulkner’s bowling due to the fact he has played the past seven seasons of the IPL. Whereas the Tasmanian regularly tricks batsmen from other countries with his variation, the Indians pick his changes of pace quite comfortably.

    The home side have some of the world’s most damaging batsmen in Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni. In their last series on home soil, three matches against England, the team piled up mammoth totals of 381, 356 and 316. And when Australia last toured India, four years ago, the home side’s average total across the series was a whopping 322.

    Virat Kohli runs after hitting a drive

    (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

    That included one match in which India absolutely butchered the Australian bowlers, making 1-362 from just 43.3 overs. Had they batted out their full overs they may well have reached 450.

    Australia fielded a full-strength attack in that match. This time they’ll be sending out a bowling unit which is B-grade. That does not bode well.

    My Australian XI for the first match
    1. David Warner
    2. Aaron Finch
    3. Steve Smith (c)
    4. Travis Head
    5. Glenn Maxwell
    6. Marcus Stoinis
    7. Matthew Wade
    8. Ashton Agar
    9. Pat Cummins
    10. Nathan Coulter-Nile
    11. Adam Zampa

    Australian ODI squad: Steve Smith (C), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.

    First ODI – Chennai, September 17
    Second ODI – Kolkata, September 21
    Third ODI – Indore, September 24
    Fourth ODI – Bangalore, September 28
    Fifth ODI – Nagpur, October 1

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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