Australian cricket is in a mess – on and off the field – and that has made India clear favourites for the series that gets underway with the T20s on Wednesday (November 21) in Brisbane. Once a compelling rivalry could lose its sheen but it is unlikely to be a walk in the park for India.
The last time India toured Australia and played T20s in 2016 (won 3-0), Australia’s squad read: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, John Hastings, Shaun Marsh, Cameron Boyce, Nathan Lyon, Chris Lynn, Travis Head, Kane Richardson, Andrew Tye, Scott Boland, Shaun Tait. Now, Australia are still led by Finch but are without experienced heads in Warner and Smith, both serving bans for involvement in ball tampering saga, and Watson has since retired.
Off the field, the ball tampering controversy in South Africa has had far reaching effects on Australian cricket. Beyond the bans, it has seen the team’s approach towards cricket being questioned with the ‘win at all costs’ attitude one of the reasons for concern. There have been multiple changes at the boardroom level too – brought about following a review into Australian cricket. Many have, thus, asked for Australian cricketers to keep their aggression in check.
On the field, Australia have had dreadful results in white ball cricket. In ODIs, Australia have played 13 matches this year, winning two and losing 11. In the shortest format, Australia have one win in last six matches. Australia lost to England in a one-off game in June, Pakistan in the T20I tri-series final in Zimbabwe, were blanked 3-0 by Pakistan again in the bilateral series in the UAE, and then lost to South Africa in a rain-curtailed one-off match on Saturday.
Compare that to India who have won their previous seven T20I series going back to November 2017, and the last defeat in the format was against West Indies in July last year.
Virat Kohli is back in the setup for India after skipping the three-match T20 series against the Windies. It definitely strengthens the visitors and it will be interesting to see how the Finch-led Australia deals with arguably the best batsman in the world at the moment. After controversial beginnings Down Under, Kohli has turned a tide since 2014 with his bat doing the talk and not his limbs. During the 2016 T20I series whitewash, he scored 199 runs in the three innings.
As announced with the 12-man squad for the first T20I, Manish Pandey will sit out and Rishabh Pant will don the gloves for India. It would mean India retain KL Rahul in the playing XI despite managing only 16, 26 not out and 17 runs against the West Indies. With that, India will possibly drop a spin option and play three seamers on a bouncer friendly track at The Gabba. In Hardik Pandya’s absence, brother Krunal will most likely come in.
A start with T20 is slated to be a perfect launchpad for both teams to make an early dent into others’ confidence. A win for India and they inflict further self-doubt on the Australians while an Aussie win would reignite India’s woes on away tours before the start of the highly-anticipated Test series.
India 12-man squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant (wk), Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed.
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (capt), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Ben McDermott, Glenn Maxwell, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.