India won’t ideally like to use it as an excuse, but ODIs are their No. 3 priority this year. Their opponents have come fully armed. The 10-wicket win in the series opener was not entirely unexpected. India were without Hardik Pandya and Bhvuneshwar Kumar, they were experimenting with their batting and playing their best ODI batsman out of position. Australia were clinical and near full strength. Not to mention they had won their previous ODI series in India too, without David Warner and Steven Smith, just before the World Cup.
ODIs might not be India’s top priority right now, they might not be full strength, but they have celebrated long and hard the ODI series win in South Africa (Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers out, a greenhorn captaining) and the Test and ODI series win in Australia (Smith and Warner out). By the same token, if they don’t manage to salvage this ODI series, it will hurt them equally. Any loss against Australia does that to Indian teams post 2001. Back-to-back home series losses will cause serious hurt.
In an attempt to salvage the series, India’s conviction in their experiment will be tested. It is easy to say Virat Kohli should return to No. 3, but was the move such a failure? Kohli remains India’s best bet in the middle order because his game possesses all the gears required in ODI cricket. It is perhaps KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan who can be faulted for getting out after getting in. One of them is a potential beneficiary of Kohli’s move down. However, it is important to not see Kohli’s move down a sacrifice for these two, but for the improvement of the middle order. Whether they are so clear-minded will be tested when the first wicket falls in Rajkot.
India will be hoping that their first wicket is also not the first wicket of the match: Australia’s real test will arrive when they are defending with a wet ball against a very good chasing side in home conditions. That toss becomes all the more important when the visiting team is a proper match for the home team.
(last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
In the extremely short run, Rishabh Pant’s concussion comes as a blessing in disguise: it opens the door for Kedar Jadhav, who can provide some much-needed balance and assurance to the bowling with the promise of his three-four overs. While Jadhav’s batting numbers remain excellent, it is his fitness history and his age that prevents him from being a long-term prospect, especially with the next 50-over World Cup due in 2023. He will like to prove otherwise both with his runs and physical fitness.
With the big wicket of Virat Kohli, Adam Zampa now has a big bull’s eye on his back. Kohli will be itching to have his own back, the way he did with Kesrick Williams in the limited-overs series earlier in the season. Will Zampa continue to capitalise on the slight weakness Kohli might have against legspin in the limited-overs game?
Jadhav is set to slot in with Rahul taking the keeping gloves. With no other allrounder in the squad, Ravindra Jadeja will continue keeping one of the wristspinners out. There is nothing in the Rajkot pitch to suggest three spinners should play. That leaves India a choice to make between Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. The batting order remains fluid.
India (possible): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 KL Rahul (wk), 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Kuldeep Yadav/ Yuzvndra Chahal, 10 Mohammed Shami/ Navdeep Saini, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Australia have no reason to change their XI after outplaying India in all three departments. The only change could be to give Josh Hazlewood a game by resting one of the quick bowlers.
Australia (possible): 1 Aaron Finch (capt.), 2 David Warner, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Alex Carey (wk), 6 Ashton Turner, 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Kane Richardson, 11 Adam Zampa
Pitch and conditions
The Rajkot track is getting baked in the sun and was nicely rolled a day before the game. It looks like a flatter pitch compared to Wankhede, and the dry and hard surface is likely to yield a high-scoring game. With a bit of nip, the temperature may not cross 25-27 degrees during the day.
Stats and Trivia
India have now lost four straight ODIs to Australia at home. They have had only two worse home streaks against a particular team: five straight losses against Pakistan in 1999 and 2004, and against West Indies they lost 15 games in the 1980s with a break of just one win after the seventh loss.
It might not sound like a weakness on the face of it, but Kohli averages 72.26 against legspin in ODIs and takes 6.3 runs per every over of legspin. Against all wristspin the average improves to 74.4 and strike rate to 6.32 per over. So, as Zampa said in the press conference, the weakness might be only when legspin is brought on when he is new to the crease.
“We have spoken about this series and how big this series is, particularly after the disappointing end to the World Cup. We can achieve something pretty special here. It’s going to be a big deal if we can get two away series wins in a row in India, so we have spoken about that briefly.”
Adam Zampa on the prospect of Australia winning their second straight ODI series in India.
“Well it happens that (sometimes) you are not prepared. Well, the country was not prepared to see us collapsing in such situations but it is a part and parcel of the game. You have to take it in your stride and move forward.”
Shreyas Iyer on where India stand right now.
Zimbabwe series will be Mashrafe Mortaza’s last as captain – BCB president
BCB president Nazmul Hassan has said the upcoming three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe will be Mashrafe Mortaza‘s last assignment as Bangladesh captain. He said that a new captain will be named “within a month” as Bangladesh plan the road ahead for the 2023 World Cup.
Hassan also said that the board will be “lenient” on the 36-year old Mortaza’s fitness levels in the lead-up to the ODI series against Zimbabwe, which begins with the first match in Sylhet on March 1. However, after the home series against Zimbabwe, Mortaza’s place in the squad will depend upon his form and fitness, according to Hassan.
“We have started to stress on beep tests so Mashrafe may not pass the beep tests, so we can drop him if he doesn’t pass it,” he said. “We also have to keep it in mind that Mashrafe’s leadership was vital in the turnaround in Bangladesh cricket. But, the time has come for him to decide how long he wants to play. I think Mashrafe will play the ODI series against Zimbabwe, pending fitness. We will be lenient about his fitness. But very soon, we have to decide on the team and captain for the next World Cup. We don’t have much time. We will take our decision after this ODI series.”
Hassan said that Mortaza had agreed on a retirement match at home during the 2019 World Cup, but the captain later changed his mind. Earlier in January this year, Mortaza had said that he will keep playing as long as he is enjoying the game, and not retiring just because the BCB president has said that they would throw a big party.
Before Bangladesh travel to Pakistan for a solitary ODI on April 3, the BCB is likely to name the new captain.
“Retirement depends on individual players,” Hassan said. “We know that top players retire on their own will. We also wanted to give him a good send-off. He can play if he wants to, but I am more concerned about the captaincy. Once we declare on the captaincy, he can enter the team on his performance.
“When I spoke to him during the World Cup, we discussed that if we can arrange a home ODI, he will retire. After returning, he changed his mind. And then he also said that he doesn’t want a send-off. He never told me. I saw it in the media. We have taken a month or a month and a half to decide our next ODI captain.”
Hassan was also critical of the Test side, saying he wasn’t hopeful of Bangladesh beating Zimbabwe in the one-off Test. After holding a meeting with the Test side on Wednesday, Hassan addressed the media.
“I have been seeing in the media in the last few days that things will be great after beating Zimbabwe. I don’t see it happening,” he said. “I have no hope. I told them, if you take them lightly, it will be a big disaster. Zimbabwe is where Zimbabwe was. We are not where we were. They have recently performed better than us.
“If someone asks me what was Bangladesh’s worst performance at home, I’d say losing to Afghanistan. It was unacceptable. If we lose to Afghanistan, we can lose to Zimbabwe. We need to have a new mindset. Our seniors must take the major responsibilities, and it has to be a team game.”
Hassan slammed the T20I side for losing 2-0 in Pakistan. He also called the Test captain Mominul Haque as “soft” and “shy”, and someone who would need help from senior pros like Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim.
“I told them that it was unacceptable to lose to Pakistan in the T20Is,” he said. “Nobody would say that we played poorly in India, but I told them that I didn’t like their approach and mindset in the Pakistan T20I series. I spoke to them about these things, ones that I had mentioned in the media but I wasn’t finding time to speak to the players. I reinforced that we are almost unbeatable at home, and we must beat at least four or five teams in their home conditions.
“I told them, ‘don’t take Zimbabwe lightly’. We must work in a planned way. Mominul is new, plus he is quite shy. Soft. I told Tamim and Mushfiq must be involved fully to charge up the team.”
In a bizarre twist, Hassan also informed the media that he had ordered the Bangladesh players and management that they would have to inform him of the playing XI, down to the batting line-up, before the game.
“I want to know the game plan on the day before the game, and the playing XI,” he said. “Why? It started from the World Cup and then the Afghanistan series, there is a total change; nothing has happened the way I expected. Those who had never played in the top order were given those roles. It was experimentation. In Pakistan too, what was told to me didn’t happen.
“I have told them that they have to give me the batting sequence and cannot drop a player in one game and then pick him again. I understand that they want to try a few boys. Our coach, who is relatively new, wants to see the fast bowlers. But whatever happens, they have to let me know in advance.”
USA allrounder Nisarg Patel banned from bowling due to suspect action
Nisarg Patel, the USA allrounder, has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect after an independent assessment found his action to be illegal.
Patel, a left-arm spinner, was reported after his side’s ODI against Oman on February 11 in Kathmandu. He bowled seven overs in the game, returning figures of 0 for 37.
An assessment was then carried out by an expert panel, as per clause 4.7 of the ICC’s illegal bowling regulations, which concluded that Patel’s bowling action was above the permitted 15-degree level. His suspension will remain in place until he undertakes a review of his action by the ICC’s expert panel, or is cleared by an ICC testing centre.
It is possible that Patel will continue to be picked as a batsman alone. While he averages just 20.28 in ODIs, he made a maiden half-century in the game against Oman earlier in the month from only 32 balls, USA’s fastest ODI fifty.
Dimuth Karunaratne back as captain, Niroshan Dickwella recalled for West Indies ODIs
As many as ten players opted out of Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan last year, the last time they played ODI cricket, and Sri Lanka have included many of them in a strong squad led by Dimuth Karunaratne, who was one of the players to withdraw, for the three-ODI series against West Indies starting Saturday.
The 15-man squad also sees the return of Niroshan Dickwella, who last played an ODI in March 2019 before being dropped for the home games against Bangladesh in July. He also chose not to travel to Pakistan, as did Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews, all now back in the squad.
The seam bowling attack for the series comprises of Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara and Isuru Udana, but is without senior bowler Suranga Lakmal, who played in the World Cup last year, but has been omitted from ODIs since. There were no surprises on the spin front: Wanindu Hasaranga, who impressed in Pakistan, and Lakshan Sandakan, are the frontline options. The offspin of De Silva is also there as support. Dasun Shanaka and Mathews are the secondary seam bowling options.
Opener Danushka Gunathilaka, meanwhile, missed out on selection due to injury, with the selectors instead going with Shehan Jayasuriya.
Lahiru Thirimanne had led Sri Lanka in the ODIs in Pakistan, but he was dropped for the upcoming games after scoring 36 and 0 in the two completed games in Karachi, both of which Sri Lanka lost.
Minod Bhanuka, Oshada Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Angelo Perera were some of the younger players who made the trip to Pakistan but missed out this time, with the return of the high-profile players.
The three ODIs will be played on February 22 and 26 and March 1 in Colombo, Hambantota and Pallekele respectively, before the teams contest two T20Is.
Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Shehan Jayasuriya, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara
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