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India vs Australia: Virat Kohli & Co look to clinch series in 5th ODI against Australia

India vs Australia: The World Cup 2019 is almost three months away, but every hit and miss in this series has been magnified because it is seen as having a huge bearing on it.

cricket Updated: Mar 12, 2019 23:13 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Australia,Virat Kohli,MS Dhoni
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, center without cap, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of Australia's captain Aaron Finch.(AP)

All buzz about the India-Australia one-day series, which is braced for the all-to-play-for final game at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground on Wednesday, is connected to the World Cup in England and Wales. The mega tournament is almost three months away, but every hit and miss in this series has been magnified because it is seen as having a huge bearing on it.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the elephant in the room, though there is not a murmur of resignation; definitely not in the Indian camp. India know losing the series is not an option, Virat Kohli and his India teammates will probably be reminded every day through IPL, running from March 23 to May 19.

IPL does resonate within the Indian team. MS Dhoni has been pulled out of the final two ODIs, and his focus will on whipping the defending champions Chennai Super Kings into shape. That means Kohli will again have to do without Dhoni pulling strings from behind the stumps, after the twin World Cup-winning skipper’s absence was felt in the Mohali defeat on Sunday.

Dew played havoc in Mohali as India could not defend 358; it will be a surprise if dew doesn’t rear its head in Delhi. There have been matches here in the past where dew has rendered games lopsided, ODI or IPL.

READ: Sanjay Manjrekar picks India’s World Cup squad, names surprise omission

India testing combinations in this series has a rushed look to it, and with IPL taking up pretty much the rest of the time heading into the World Cup, Kohli and the team management have little choice as they look to marry personnel and situations. And the perfect situation for the ideal player don’t always arise during a game — for example, KL Rahul batting at No 3 in his first ODI for a while in Mohali but coming in only in the 32nd over after the huge opening stand.

WORKLOAD WORRIES

Although Kohli and the team management have said they are clear about the players they feel will fit in best for the World Cup, the skipper has also urged his teammates to be smart with the workload in IPL. That reflects concerns that key players — Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Mohammed Shami — can be fatigued or left nursing fitness issues.

The glitzy T20 tournament will be a godsend for India’s key all-rounder Hardik Pandya who will be eager to get going for Mumbai Indians after back trouble sidelined him for the current series.

READ: India’s no. 4 batting conundrum - Manjrekar proposes surprising new name

Australia interestingly are no longer fretting over the situation they are in. Having bounced back from 0-2 to force the decider, they have Usman Khawaja, skipper Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb as well as Ashton Turner high on confidence and jostling for World Cup spots. And that eases pressure on Steve Smith and David Warner, who can’t wait for IPL to shake off the rust after one-year bans with Mitchell Starc on the mend following a muscle injury with World Cup his focus.

India skipped practice on Tuesday, which bowling coach Bharat Arun said was part of their workload management. Crucially, Shami, who sat out the Mohali game after being hit on his shin on the follow through, is fit to play on a pitch he knows well playing for Delhi’s IPL franchise.

And there will be a lot of pride among the Delhi players in the team — Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant — to make it a memorable game.

First Published: Mar 12, 2019 23:13 IST