Virat Kohli-led India have won the opening two contests in the five-match ODI series against Australia. But the side has not appeared the dominant force it has been in recent years at home. While the first win came by six wickets after India went down 99/4 in the 237-run chase, the second one was even closer, coming in the final over by 8 runs. Kohli, though, did not mind the close results.
“Just coming through these kinds of games gives us confidence. It’s important to look ugly at times, and come through and win. We might get these low-scoring games in the World Cup as well,” he said at the post-match ceremony after the 2nd ODI in Nagpur.
— BCCI (@BCCI) 7 March 2019
Now, as the two teams enter the third ODI, the Men in Blue would continue to not be worried about looking “ugly” as long as they can pull off the series win.
The ‘Mahi’ factor
The crucial contest will take place in JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi – the homeground of former India skipper MS Dhoni. With the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman likely to retire after the World Cup, it might be the final time Dhoni steps out in Ranchi for an international match in the blue jersey.
— BCCI (@BCCI) 7 March 2019
The 37-year-old has been in solid form in 2019, with an average of 100.33 in eight games. He has already amassed 301 runs in the year so far, with 87* against Australia being the highest score. Dhoni has proved to be a vital asset for the team lower down the order and has taken India to victories from precarious positions more than once this year.
With all eyes on him in Ranchi, the veteran would hope to put on another good show with the bat and the gloves to bid farewell to his hometown on a high. The Ranchi crowd would love to feast their eyes on another “Mahi maar raha hai” show, and if it could lead India to a series win, it would be another memorable night for MSD.
Worries for Kohli
Kohli, though, would not be focused solely on his keeper as he has other issues to deal with. Shikhar Dhawan’s poor form has continued at home, and the skipper will have a choice to make on whether to replace him with KL Rahul, who showed signs of form in the T20Is. Dhawan has scored just two fifties in last 15 games, which has hurt India’s ability to get off to a good start.
Another cause of concern would be the number four position, with Ambati Rayudu’s 90-run innings against New Zealand being the only noteworthy contribution made by him. Rayudu has struggled to rotate the strike and Kohli might look to replace him with Rahul, to keep his opening pair intact. Rahul can bat at the no. 3 position, while the captain can go at the number four position, something which coach Ravi Shastri had said India might do at the World Cup.
The selection committee would also be eager to see Rishabh Pant being tested before the World Cup, and if India can finish off the series in Ranchi, they can include the youngster in the playing XI in the final two ODIs.
Bowling looks sorted
Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar have proved their usefulness, with both bat and the ball, while Ravindra Jadeja has shown the ability to slow down the innings in the middle overs. With three allrounders already groomed for the World Cup, India would not be too worried about Hardik Pandya’s fitness in the run-up to the tournament, even though Jadhav and Shankar don’t seem like bowling out the full quota of overs.
India do not have too much to worry about in the bowling department. Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav have delivered with important wickets at crucial stages. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will return to the squad, replacing Siddarth Kaul for the next three ODIs and India might give a bit of rest to Bumrah or Shami to give Kumar a go at the Aussies. The side might want to test Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal pair in spin, and Kuldeep could be rested for a game or two in the series.
India ODI Squad: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Ambati Rayudu, Lokesh Rahul, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja
Australia ODI Squad: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye