Why the India vs Australia ODI series is so important

Natraj Hada Roar Rookie

By Natraj Hada, Natraj Hada is a Roar Rookie

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    The first ODI between India and Australia is over. India won the match comfortably by 26 runs (DLS method), but that is no indication of how this series is going to unfold.

    India was precariously poised at 87/5 when Hardik Pandya (83 of 66 balls) walked out to join MS Dhoni (79 of 88 balls). It could have been a different result altogether, had Steve Smith taken the difficult chance offered by Pandya quite early in his innings.

    Various forums and fan comments would suggest that it is irrelevant, especially the Aussie media and fans showing mild to lukewarm response, calling this an unnecessary exercise in preparation for the all-important Ashes, due to begin in November.

    Some even argue that the recently concluded two-match, highly engrossing Test series between Australia and Bangladesh should have had one more Test, rather indulging in this month-long sojourn in India.

    Valid arguments, but no series between these two sides, however irrelevant, would lack in passion or entertainment for the viewers and pundits alike.

    These are two most competitive sides in world cricket today, led by equally fierce and competitive young captains in Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. These men will leave no stone unturned or give an inch to get one up on each other, not to mention the bragging rights.

    It helps that both are also two of the best all-round batsmen of this generation. Let me put in my two cents here on why would this series is relevant and important for the players, boards, viewers, pundits and statisticians involved.


    (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    The resources on show
    Batting: No series featuring the likes of Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, David Warner (after his back to back centuries in recently concluded Aussie tour of Bangladesh), Rohit Sharma, Aaron Finch (though sidelined for few matches with injury), Shikhar Dhawan (missing the first three matches due to personal reasons), Glen Maxwell, Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni, (after regenerating his form in 2017), can be without fireworks.

    Last time Australia toured here, scores of 300+ were a norm, with 295 being the lowest score batting first. India won that keenly fought series 3-2, with two washouts/no results. Both sides have a lot of depth in the batting department exemplified by James Faulkner, who could bat as low as 8/9 for Australia, depending on the composition of the team.

    India boasts a similar depth, with the likes of Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar coming in at seven and eight or nine in case Ravindra Jadeja is in the ranks.

    We could see a repeat of high-scoring thrillers of 2013.

    Bowling: India looks more much settled in the bowling department, with Mohammed Shami, Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Pandya, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Yajuwendra Chahal and Ravi Jadeja all fit, available and in form.

    They proved their form with handy bowling performances in the first ODI, with Chahal and Kuldeep emerging as genuine wicket takers in the middle overs, and Bhuvi, Bumrah and Pandya potent with the new ball and clever with the changes of pace in the middle and death overs.

    Australia is missing their top bowlers in Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, both missing due to injury, and there is the surprise non-inclusion of Nathan Lyon. However, the likes of Pat Cummins (0/44), Nathan Coulter-Nile (3/44 in the first ODI), Kane Richardson, James Faulkner, Adam Zampa (1/66) and Ashton Agar will do their best to make life difficult for the Indian batsmen.

    Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis (2/54 in the first ODI), Hilton Cartwright and Travis Head can all chip in with few handy overs if required. Both outfits stack up well against each other, with India looking a tad stronger on paper, owing to familiar home conditions and good in form spinners to exploit that.

    However, the game itself is played on the field. We are in for a cracker of a series.

    Keeping an eye on the upcoming Cricket World Cup 2019
    Although the forthcoming World cup will be played in England in totally different conditions, this series will provide the selectors with an opportunity to test newcomers keeping the World Cup in mind. India clearly has made its intentions clear with the non-inclusion of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, with a tilt towards youngsters like Manish Pandey, Kedhar Jadhav and KL Rahul.

    Captain Kohli and the selectors have clearly shown their preference and faith in the wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, leaving out India’s top two spinners in Ashwin and Jadeja (although Jadeja was later added to the roster due to injury to Axar Patel).

    The same goes for Australia, with Hilton Cartwright, Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Adam Zampa, Pete Handscomb and Jason Behrendorff (T20 only) all eyeing this series to impress the selectors and make their mark.

    Even old timers like Matthew Wade (ODI only), Tim Payne (T20 only), Moises Henriques (T20 only) and Daniel Christian (T20 only), will have a point or two to prove. Try telling them that this series has no relevance – rest assured that each and every one of them will be giving their best once they cross the white line into the park.

    Glenn Maxwell hits a six

    (AFP / Theo Karanikos)

    Auditions for Indian Premier League auctions
    The youngsters, especially the Australians, will be trying their utmost to impress the IPL scouts; a couple of good performance could easily mean a large bid come auction time. Strong performances in the limited overs series, especially T20 internationals on Indian pitches, can go a long way in persuading IPL teams to go big during the auctions.

    So, if playing for national pride is not enough, then a huge pile of IPL cash will certainly make these players leave it all there on the playing field.

    The history
    These two sides have been involved in some of the most entertaining hard-fought cricket in recent history, fraught with controversy and drama.

    The captains, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, do not shy away from a verbal confrontation or two. Take, for instance, the last time these two teams met in the Test series in India. There was more action in the press conferences than the matches itself. Kohli stopped just shy of calling Smith a cheat and Smith called Kohli unsporting and a brat in the limited overs series played in Australia.

    The media is also doing its bit to spice up the contest, with one Aussie journalist mocking the Indian skipper by calling him ‘a sweeper’ in a recent tweet.

    Clearly, there is no love lost between the two skippers, and often the so-called ‘banter’ turns into an ugly fiery confrontation. So buckle up your seatbelts for the action, because there will be no shortage of it, both on and off the field.

    Also on the line will be the No.1 spot in ODI rankings if either team wins 4-1, that itself is a huge motivation for both the captains, who want their respective teams to be top ranked in all the three formats.

    We can safely say that context or no context, this will be no ordinary bilateral contest, like the one we just had in Sri Lanka.

    Both teams have a strong sense of national pride, and no cricket match between the two sides since the 90s has been without its share brilliant performance, drama and intrigue. So sceptics sit back and let us, the fans, enjoy this one month of cricketing extravaganza.

    There have been upsets aplenty in the World Cup so far, so be sure to check out our expert tips and predictions for South Korea vs Sweden, Belgium vs Panama and England vs Tunisia and get the good oil on who to tip tonight.

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