Internet Desk: A confident Indian team will look to continue their winning momentum against a depleted Australia when the two teams face each other in the first match of the three-match T-20 series on Saturday.
Virat Kohli & Co. thrashed the Aussies 4-1 in the ODI series to climb at the top of the ODI rankings and the Men in Blue would want finish their campaign against the visitors in style.
The Indian team has a very good bowling unit in both pace and spin department which always backs a very good batting line-up. This is the main reason that the team looks invincible at the moment.
Young Hardik Pandya’s all-round performance and two wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were the key for India’s success against Australia during the ODI series.
But come T20Is, it could be worse for Australia as India boast of a 9-3 head-to-head record.
In the last T20I bilateral series, India made a 3-0 clean sweep in Australia in January last year while they have lost only once out of the five series played between the two nations.
For India, all eyes would be on old warhorse Ashish Nehra who has been recalled for the T20I series, having last played against England in February this year.
The 38-year-old’s ability to notch up pace and his death bowling ability will be a key factor for India as the left-arm pacer would add variety to the pace attack of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
Nehra has played 26 T20Is and took 34 wickets and still has the world batsmen in awe, something that was seen during the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s campaign in IPL.
Man-of-the-series in the ODI series, Pandya — 222 runs at an average of 55.50 and six wickets – has been able to establish himself as a key player in the side. He is seen as a vital cog in the wheel for India’s road to 2019 World Cup.
His match-winning 66-ball 83 at number 7 in the first ODI in Chennai with a hattrick of sixes against Adam Zampa not only demoralised the Aussies but virtually sealed the momentum of the series in favour of India.
Then came a 72-ball 78 after he was promoted to number 4 in the Indore third ODI. The Baroda lad will turn 24 next week and he has already being levelled as the next ‘Kapil Devi in the making’.
Pandya along with Kedar Jadhav will be the two key Indian allrounders while opener Rohit Sharma, the top run-getter in the ODI series (296 runs), will look to continue his good run.
Shikhar Dhawan, who had opted out of the five-match ODI series, is back after attending to his ill wife, while there’s also KL Rahul who has been chosen ahead of Ajinkya Rahane despite the latter’s four successive fifties in the ODIs.
Rahul has happy memories of Ranchi as the last time India played at the JSCA International Stadium Complex in a Test versus Australia, he scored a 67 in a drawn affair.
His return from a shoulder injury has not been up to the mark as he did not get a chance in the ODI series but Rahul has been retained for the T20I series and he would look to make it count.
For Australia, it’s paramount to get back to winning rhythm with the Ashes series beckoning in a month’s time.
Their over reliance on Steve Smith and David Warner and the middle order’s failure to capitalise was the reason behind Australia’s failure in the ongoing series.
Since his outstanding tour of India in February and March, Smith has managed 347 runs at 34.70 in 10 ODIs in the Champions Trophy and tours of Bangladesh and India, and is yet to score a century.
With middle order equally inconsistent, the onus will be on the opening duo of Warner and Aaron Finch to give them a strong start.
Finch scored 250 runs in three innings, while Warner made 245 runs from five outings in the just-concluded ODI series and they would hold the key to their campaign in the T20Is.
Uncapped left-arm speedster Jason Behrendorff, along with wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine, all-rounders Moises Henriques and Dan Christian, are the new additions in Australia’s T20I squad.
With James Pattinson ruled out for the Ashes, Behrendorff will be closely monitored in the T20I series. He along with Nathan Coulter-Nile, the leading wicket-taker in the ODI series, will look to make an impact.
Behrendorff maintained that the “morale” of the side is good despite the 1-4 loss in the ODI series.
“We speak a lot about having a good attitude at training and games. We are doing everything we can to remain positive.
That’s a big part for the new guys coming into the group. We need to keep the ground buzzing,” the rookie pacer said.
India: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Axar Patel.
Australia: Steve Smith (C), David Warner (VC), Jason Behrendorff, Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.