With Australia and India gearing up for six white ball matches in just 12 days, we address five key topics ahead of the international men’s summer.
1. Is this the ideal summer schedule?
It’s taken a global pandemic for Cricket Australia to nail their international men’s summer schedule, but the forced changes simply work.
In fact, the flow of the coming months against India should be replicated in years to come. That is, an entree serving of one-dayers and T20s, before the main course of a Test series that goes into mid/late January.
Traditionally, the showpiece tours (England and India) have launched straight into a Test series before slowing down into white ball series that inevitably attract less interest.
Under this model, momentum has slowed by the end of the summer. This year, however, the build-up progresses nicely towards what could be a tour-defining crescendo at the Gabba on January 15. Nice work, CA.
2. Does the Australian ODI XI pick itself?
Australian selectors opted for an identical side in all three one-dayers against England in September. That is, a top order of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis and Marnus Labuschagne, followed by a middle order featuring two all-rounders (Mitch Marsh and Glenn Maxwell) and a wicketkeeper in Alex Carey.
The bowling makeup was pace trio Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, plus the spin of Adam Zampa.
Steve Smith — who sat out that series with a concussion issue — is now ready to return, and it appears he’ll be a straight swap for the injured Mitch Marsh.
Should they opt for that XI, though, Finch will rely on more overs from Stoinis and Maxwell. Justin Langer said on Wednesday that, going forward, they wanted three all-rounders as in the UK.
“We’ll probably lean that way (picking Smith for Marsh) but we did learn and we’ve talked about in our foundation for one-day cricket going forward, we really like that extra bowling option,” he said.
“In England we had Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell able to get us at least 10 overs. So we like that combination, the extra allrounder.” Which leads neatly into the next query…
3. Could Cameron Green debut in the next week?
One man who could fill that ‘extra bowling’ void is the uncapped Cameron Green. Over the years we’ve seen Australian selectors blood Test-destined youngsters in the ODI team first. Could we see that happen again in the next six days with Green?
The 21-year-old has played just nine 50-over games for Western Australia, but debuting him in an ODI is a far less risky proposition than a Test match.
Plus, it might be the only chance selectors will get to put the exciting all-rounder into international colours this summer. Unless, of course, they either require an extra bowler on a flat Melbourne or Sydney wicket, or if one of Travis Head or Matthew Wade hits a particularly poor run of form.
Green is still developing in the T20 format and is unlikely to debut in that series. Should he be given the nod as a third all-rounder in the coming week, it could be at the expense of Labuschagne — a move that would be viewed as harsh.
4. What mark will Kohli leave in his short stay?
Even if Virat Kohli lights up the day-night Adelaide Test and leads India to victory, he can only — at best — impact one quarter of that series.
After that, he’s packing his bags to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. In the ODI and T20 series, however, Kohli will almost certainly play all six combined games, and as the best three-format player in the world, may be the difference between the two sides.
Australia and India are incredibly evenly matched when it comes to short-format cricket.
Since the Test series two summers ago, they’ve played 14 ODI/T20 matches, with seven wins apiece. Each has won an ODI series on opposition turf in that time.
Knowing it will be the only indelible mark he can leave on this summer, Kohli could well prove the difference.
5. What impact will a lacklustre IPL have on the Aussies?
Despite a huge contingent of Aussies at this season’s IPL (19, in fact), there were few that departed the UAE content with their output.
Of the players gearing up for the upcoming ODIs and T20s, some were rarely picked; Hazlewood, Zampa and Carey each played just three games. Others did not get the returns hoped for pre-tournament; Maxwell and Finch struggled to get going, while Smith and Cummins scraped through with a pass mark.
It was only Warner and Stoinis who stood out.
By contrast, India’s top short-format players were dominant, as the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal and Mohammad Shami again lead the way.
What residual impact this has on confidence, and even conditioning, is to be seen.