Kishan in place of Rohit, Tilak at Kohli's No.3, Iyer fit, Ashwin over Sundar: India's likely XI vs Australia in 1st ODI
Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, R Ashwin are set to get much-needed game time in the Australia ODIs before the World Cup begins.
Shreyas Iyer's fitness, a toss-up between Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar as Axar Patel's backup, game time for Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma. India have various things to look forward to and plenty of combinations to try in just three ODIs against Australia before the World Cup begins. Some would say, it's two and not three as the regulars - captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, vice-captain Hardik Pandya and lead spinner Kuldeep Yadav return for the third ODI. But head coach Rahul Dravid knows that they have to strike the right balance between experiments and workload management, between plugging last-minute holes and strengthening the bases.
With "mutual consent", India decided to rest Rohit, Kohli, Hardik and Kuldeep for the first two matches of the home series against Australia. It made a whole lot of sense. Shreyas Iyer is yet to prove his match fitness after his back injury returned following the group stages of the Asia Cup. On the eve of the first ODI against Australia in Mohali, Iyer looked in good spirits. Unlike the latter half of the Asia Cup, he moved well and appeared to be fully fit to take the field.
Kishan to open, Iyer at No.4, Tilak at No.3
There is no Kohli and naturally, the temptation of pushing Iyer to No.3 is there but going by Dravid's words, that is unlikely as India would be their World Cup first-XI players to perform the role they would be doing during the showpiece event. Iyer, therefore, is set to bat at No.4. What this also means is that stand-in captain for the first two matches, KL Rahul, will bat at his usual No.5 position instead of climbing a spot higher. Who will play at No.3 then?
India don't have a direct option but they have a few who can take up the role. Among them, young Tilak Varma appears to be the front-runner. He is not in the World Cup squad but is being seen as a backup option if an injury strikes any of the batters in the middle of the long tournament. Moreover, he was the one who batted at No.3 in the Asia Cup Super 4 match against Bangladesh when India decided to rest five of their preferred players.
What about the openers? Now that Rohit is not there, Ishan Kishan will once again get his opportunity a the top of the order. He will be accompanied by Shubman Gill, who in captain Rohit's words, doesn't want to take any break.
Suryakumar Yadav confirmed for World Cup
Dravid also confirmed that the team management will continue to back Suryakumar Yadav for the World Cup despite his not-so-impressive ODI numbers - an average of 24.41 in 27 matches. To be fair Surya, he hasn't had a confirmed batting slot in ODIs and has floated between No.4 and No.7. It was only from the West Indies series that the Indian think tank picked No.6 as Surya's spot. He is set to bat at that position in the first two ODIs against Australia.
Ravindra Jadeja slots in at No.7 without a doubt. With Hardik Pandya not there, Shardul Thakur becomes a certainty. This means it is unlikely that both Ashwin and Sundar will play in the same XI against Australia unless the Mohali pitch has something to say.
Ashwin over Sundar
Ashwin hasn't played an ODI since January last year. In the last six years, he has played only two. But such is the versatility and the experience of Ashwin that he is always at the back of the mind of every coach and selector. The moment Axar suffered an injury in Asia Cup, the Indian team management started to look for options. There were none better than Ashwin but the off-spinner was not available for the Asia Cup final and hence Washington Sundar was drafted into the XI.
The Indian team management is still hopeful for Axar's timely recovery before their World Cup opener against Australia on October 8 but just in case the left-hander can't make it, they have Ashwin and Sundar. Both of them have been included in the squad for the three-match series against Australia but it is a no-brainer who would get the preference as the lead spinner.
As far as the choice of seamers are concerned, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj are set to start but Mohammed Shami will surely play a part in the series as Bumrah and Siraj are unlikely to play all three matches.
India predicted XI for 1st ODI vs Australia: Ishan Kishan, Shubman Gill, Tilak Varma, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (c/wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.
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