Newly crowned Asia Cup champions India will be looking to fine-tune their ODI World Cup preparations when they square off against Australia in a three match series at home, with the first one set to be played in Mohali on Friday. The series is also an important one for Andrew McDonald’s Australia- it’s an effective dress rehearsal for their World Cup opener against Rahul Dravid’s men in Chennai on October 8.
Australia were disappointing in their recently concluded series in South Africa. They started brightly, winning the T20 series and going 2-0 up in the ODI one, but it all went pear-shaped after that, with the Proteas winning three straight ODI’s- all by 100+ run margins, to stage a stunning turnaround and take the series 3-2.
To make matters worse, key batsman Travis Head suffered a hand fracture in the fourth ODI, and is to be racing against time to be fit for the World Cup. Head has not only been consistent at the top of the order for the Aussies- he’s also a major reason for them scoring quickly in the first ten overs (a far cry from the Aaron Finch era), and his absence will leave a huge hole in their batting order. David Warner isn’t getting any younger, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell have needed injections to get them ready for the World Cup, and the likes of Alex Carey and Marcus Stoinis have struggled with the bat in recent years.
India, on the other hand, had a dream Asia Cup. They thumped arch-rivals Pakistan by a whopping 228 runs and bowled Sri Lanka for 50 all out in the final. It should come as no surprise that they’re favourites to lift the World Cup on home soil in the Powerplay cricket betting currently. In Kohli, Sharma, Gill and Rahul, they have a fine batting lineup and Hardik Pandya and Ravi Jadeja lend fantastic all-round balance to the side. In Bumrah and Siraj, they have two excellent pacers at the top of the game, and Kuldeep Yadav was virtually unplayable for the other fellow Asian sides in Sri Lanka, which augurs very well going into the World Cup on spin-friendly pitches.
Marnus Labuschagne wasn’t named in the original Australian World Cup squad, but may still make it given the visitors’ lengthy injury list. Labuschagne gave a good account of himself in South Africa- the way he steered them home in the first ODI in the company of Ashton Agar was extremely pleasing to watch, and another set of similar performances in India could see him force his way into the squad.
India will be without several key players for the first two ODI’s, with the likes of Sharma, Kohli, Pandya and Bumrah all rested. KL Rahul will take over the reigns in Sharma’s absence. Mohali is expected to be a high scoring venue- over 700 runs were scored at the same ground when Australia won a thriller four years ago, courtesy a stunning 43-ball 84 from Ashton Turner.