India, Australia set for series of experiments with first ODI in Chennai
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India, Australia set for series of experiments with first ODI in Chennai

Having lost Shikhar Dhawan, Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli insists Ajinkya Rahane is best suited for the opening job despite having Test opener KL Rahul in the ranks against Australia cricket team in the ODI series.

india vs australia 2017 Updated: Sep 16, 2017 23:16 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Chennai
India vs Australia,IND vs AUS,INdian cricket team
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli checks out the balance of his bat as head coach Ravi Shastri looks on during a practice session at MAC Stadium on the eve of the first ODI match against Australia cricket team in Chennai on Saturday. (PTI)

Australia cricket team comes to India at a juncture when Virat Kohli and the Indian team management is busy tinkering with the line-up to create a batting order where anyone can adapt to any position. The timing of the experiment though is questionable.

While it was acceptable to test the waters against a depleted team like Sri Lanka, doing the same against Australia may not be wise. After all, Australia have the second best win percentage in ODIs behind Pakistan on Indian soil.

And they were also the only team to have won a Test during India’s indomitable home run till early this year with a relatively young side. This Australia ODI squad may not be able to drop names but the selection still makes a lot of sense when pitted against India’s.

Chance for Rahane

The only area both Indian cricket team and Australia have been dealt a major blow is in the opening slot. Peter Handscomb doesn’t look a like-for-like replacement of the explosive Aaron Finch who is nursing a calf niggle.

Having lost Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli insists Ajinkya Rahane is best suited for the job despite having Test opener KL Rahul in the ranks. While Rahane has opened the batting before too, this ‘arrangement’ is an indication of Virat Kohli’s long-term plans.

“It takes time, I am not saying it is easy,” Kohli said at the pre-match press conference on Saturday. “If you see Jinks (Rahane) as well --- he has played in the middle order in the ODIs, he plays in the middle order in Test matches. He’s also opened a lot in ODIs as well. He also felt that he found it difficult to switch. Now we’re backing Jinks at the top of the order. So, once you get that balance with giving that player more chances, then he gets more confident of his role in the team.”

“Till then obviously, Manish (Pandey) is there as well, Kedar (Jadhav) is there. So there’ll always be competition for a particular spot. KL is an outstanding talent. And he is someone that needs to be backed. Because we believe that he has the ability. Once he gets his role done, he’ll start winning us games. We’re very sure of that.”

Problem is, Rahane would be again left out the day Dhawan returns to opening the batting for India. With Rahul being schooled to own the No 4 position ahead of MS Dhoni, Pandey, Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, Rahane needs to do something brilliant this series to get himself back in the fray.

All-rounders count

Taking into account the pitches expected to be prepared, taking pace off the ball could be a major weapon in what is billed to be a series full of runs. By calling back James Faulkner, Australia have shown the intent to stem that problem.

Thanks to a prolonged stint with Rajasthan Royals now perfected at Gujarat Lions, Faulkner is one of the craftiest cricketers in this format. India’s answer to him right now is Pandya who may not be as experienced with the ball but can definitely clear the boundaries at will.

And Ravindra Jadeja’s last minute addition in place of the injured Axar Patel gives the right balance to the Indian lower middle order.

In terms of experience though, both Maxwell and Faulkner outweigh their Indian counterparts and that should be worrying for Kohli.

First Published: Sep 16, 2017 22:14 IST