Australia’s inexperienced ODI bowling attack faces a massive challenge today against India’s dominant batting lineup in the opening match in Sydney.
India currently boast arguably the best top three in ODI history – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli – followed by a very talented middle order.
Kohli, Rohit and Dhawan collectively own an incredible 74 tons in ODI cricket, and will face an Australian attack which combined has a paltry total of just 40 career wickets in this format.
It is a massive mismatch in experience and, potentially, in skill too. To make matters worse for the home side India’s commanding top three have an extraordinary record against Australia – together they have made 3,401 runs at 56 versus the Aussies.
That’s downright scary. What’s even more frightening is that Australia have fielded attacks which were full-strength or close to it in many of those encounters with Kohli, Rohit and Dhawan and yet they still ran amok.
What, then, will they do to a modest and green ODI attack of Jhye Richardson (four career ODIs), Jason Behrendorff (on ODI debut), Peter Siddle (hasn’t played an ODI in eight years) and Nathan Lyon (15 career ODIs)?
Richardson has showed glimpses of promise in his brief limited overs international career but has also been carved up several times.
Behrendorff is hugely-gifted – the best 50-over bowler yet to represent Australia. He made a big impression on India last year when inside his first 2.3 overs he dismissed Kohli, Rohit, Dhawan and Manish Pandey in a T20I in Guwahati. It was the left armer’s late swing which troubled the Indian batsmen on that occasion.
But Behrendorff has a huge task today making his ODI debut on an expected SCG road against this dominant Indian batting unit. The same goes for Siddle, making a shock comeback to ODIs, and Lyon who has never had a proper run in the format.
Beyond their intimidating top three, India also have at four a skilful accumulator in Ambati Rayudu, who has 1,447 runs at 52 in ODIs.
Offering late innings fire power are Kedhar Jadhav, who averages 42 at a strike rate of 108 in ODIs, and all-rounder Hardik Pandya (average of 29, strike rate of 114).
Pandya is particularly explosive and is at his most destructive against spin. If he crosses paths with Lyon today make sure you’re watching.
As odd it sounds, India’s weakest link may just be the man who has claims to be considered their best ODI player of all time.
In his past 30 ODIs, veteran wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni has averaged just 25 with the bat.
What stands out most is his consistently snail-paced scoring – Dhoni’s strike rate in that period is 74, which equates to a run rate of 4.44 runs per over, an incredibly low mark in an era when team totals of 330-plus are common.
Regardless, it’s a daunting scenario for the Australian bowlers when perhaps India’s most vulnerable batsman owns 10,000 ODI runs at an average of 50.
Australia are going to have to either set or chase huge totals in this series because it is very hard to see how their attack can contain this amazing Indian batting unit.