Indian team has reached Australia for a two months long tour. Although the main focus will be on the test matches and one-day internationals due to the upcoming cricket world cup in 2019, the tour is starting with a three-match T20 series which should be equally fascinating.
Last time when India played a T20 series in Australia in 2016, they emerged victorious with a 3-0 whitewash. And after achieving another 3-0 series win in the recently concluded home series against the Windies, the Indians will be pumped up for a similar result and test some of their younger players in foreign conditions. Australians are also fighting their own battle and still looking for a stable top order in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner.
Indian selectors caught the attention of the fans from all over the globe when they decided to drop MS Dhoni from the T20 team, the first time in 11 years. Instead, they have selected both Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik as they wanted to assess who could be the understudy of Dhoni in the world cup next year. Except for Dhoni, another regular member who is missing from T20 team is Hardik Pandya who is still recovering from his back problems and will miss the entire tour. Although India has a strong Top order including Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, and Shikhar Dhawan, as many as five players are fighting for the remaining 3 spots in the middle order. And for people like KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, and Manish Pandey the time is running out to strengthen their claim for the middle order spot in the limited overs team.
India has an interesting spin quartet in the team led by Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal and supported by Krunal Pandya and Washington Sundar, both of whom can be considered as all-rounders. Kuldeep has already proved himself as one of the mainstays of India’s bowling and the most potent weapon for next year’s World Cup. This year in T20 he already has 17 wickets from 6 matches including a 5-wicket haul against England. In the Windies series, he was the Man of the series despite playing only first two matches. Kuldeep should enjoy the long grounds in Australia and play a key role. Another interesting recent addition to the team is Krunal Pandya. Hardik’s elder brother Krunal also provides a good balance with his all-round capability. He played a cameo of unbeaten 21 of 9 balls to take India to cross the victory line comfortably in his first match. His bowling was tight in the series and despite just one wicket, he maintained an economy rate of just 6.50. Pace bowling department will be led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jaspreet Bumrah with the youngster Khalil Ahmed looking forward to continuing impressing the selectors in conditions more suited to him.
Australia has rested their Test regulars and none of Mitchell Stark, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Nathan Lyon is playing. The team will be led by Aaron Finch. Alex Carey will be his deputy and also keep wickets. Chris Lynn, D’Arcy Short, and Glen Maxwell will provide the big-hitting options. Australians have also recalled all-rounder Marcus Stoinis who can play a key role with his dual skills. Billy Stanlake and Andrew Tye had successful IPL season and will know some of these Indian batsmen pretty well. They also have experienced Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff to support the pace bowling department. Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar will provide the spin bowling options.
Australia is facing quite a challenge this year in limited overs game. They had 6 losses in their last 8 T20 matches with an only win against Zimbabwe and UAE. The team is still struggling with the absence of Smith and Warner and injuries of other key players like Shaun Marsh. Even outside the field, the team is impacted by controversies and by the recent reviews post the ball tampering scandal found their arrogance and win-at-any-cost mentality to be blamed for not playing the game fairly. The team is playing a battle outside the field also to bring the trust back from the pundits and more importantly from their fans.
With Men’s World T20 more than a year away, these T20s may not have that much importance like ODIs, however, both the team would like to win to start such a key tour with slightly more confidence and a settled unit.