Hectic schedules these days mean there are no build-ups even for a high profile series involving India and Australia. Much is riding on it: the two protagonists have an edge to their rivalry; are the number 1 and 2 teams; have injury worries and want to treat it as the beginning of countdown to the 2011 World Cup.
A bigger picture ought to be the future of one-day cricket. I believe 20,000 tickets have been snapped up in Vadodara, so the outlook is rosy. Ahead of the Sunday game, fans are sweating on MS Dhoni’s fitness. While the injured Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh are making comebacks, Zaheer Khan is still on the bench. Australia will be missing Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Callum Ferguson and Nathan Bracken.
Injuries have hurt India in more than one way and it will deepen the worry on fielding standards. The bowling would be tested too. Harbhajan Singh must show the way on these slow and low pitches and Ishant Sharma would be up for critical scrutiny. Ashish Nehra has been the pick lately but he would need support from the other end. The batting line-up has men like Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir. It has dashers like Sehwag and Yuvraj and Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli have the flamboyance of youth. India must make the most of Australia’s relatively weak middle order. Clarke and Fergusson’s absence would leave a big ask for the others to tackle India’s spin queries.
I believe the better fielding side might have the edge in the series.