Preview: Revitalised India look to maintain momentum in tri-series

India’s morale has gone up after their much-needed win in the second T20 Getty Images

By Ashish Shukla

Melbourne: Feb 4, 2012

Finally a win under their belt in what has been a highly disappointing tour, India would aim to carry the Twenty20 momentum into the one-dayers when they take on Australia in the first match of the tri-series starting on Sunday.

After a 0-4 thrashing in the Tests and a loss in the first T20 against Australia, India tasted victory in the second T20, winning by eight wickets last night.

The beleaguered Indians have been revitalised by the arrival of young players such as Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Rahul Sharma.

The effort on the field was markedly improved and the Indians would be hoping that the shift in the momentum continues in the ODIs as well.

The team will have its share of seniors as well with veteran Sachin Tendulkar’s return to the fold. Tendulkar, still on the threshold of his 100th international century, has put his hands up for the tri-series in order to cross the milestone.

The maestro has faced unprecedented pressure in the last one year during which he played 11 Tests and 21 innings but still wasn’t able to get over the line.

There were two scores in the 90s and one in 80s but Tendulkar could not go the whole hog and found a way to eject himself out from the middle.

Now the iconic player is available for selection and it means either Ravichandran Ashwin or promising leg-spinner Rahul Sharma would have to watch the proceedings from the sidelines at the MCG.

Both Ashwin and Sharma were excellent in the first two Twenty20 matches though the latter appeared to have done marginally better than his more experienced spin partner.

Australia would be stronger as well with the return of five Test heavyweights in the one-day squad — batting greats Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey, who between them slammed five Test centuries, including two double and a triple, in the Test series.

Fast bowler Ryan Harris and left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc would be as much welcome to provide the diet which has been so upsetting for the Indian batsmen all summer.

Australia’s balance would be further enhanced by the introduction of Matthew Wade who played two brilliant innings of 72 and 32 in Twenty20 internationals batting at different slots of an opener and a number six bat.

Besides Wade, Daniel Christian, Mitchell Marsh, Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty are being carried over from the Twenty20 squad.

Australia are no less keen to avenge the loss of World Cup quarter-finals last year in Ahmedabad which paved the way for India’s ultimate World Cup triumph.

The hosts are aware they face a different and possibly stronger, challenge in India’s young one-day team who are quick between the wickets and extremely agile in the outfield.

Even the vastness of MCG didn’t quite deter them in putting up a brilliant show in the field and eke out as many as four run-outs off the otherwise fleet-footed Australian batsmen.

Both sides have a lot to play for in terms of prestige.

While Australia is officially ranked as number one side in the world, India are the reigning world champions Australia have won seven of their last 10 matches. India have won nine of their last 10 ties.

Ashwin claimed one wicket at an economy rate of 7.12 while Sharma had three wickets at an economy of 7.63.

Ashwin is a better bat than Sharma with a Test century under his belt but Sharma showed a very large heart by bowling with a heavily bandaged bowling hand — result of a split webbing — at the MCG last night.

Australian Twenty20 captain indeed pointed out Sharma as very difficult to work around as the 6’3″ leg-spinner got unusual bounce even on a flat deck at the MCG.

If India wants to keep both the spinners in the eleven, it would imply shortening the batting, most likely at the cost of Rohit Sharma.

Sharma waited the entire Test series for his opportunity which never came his way. Luck bedevilled him in the Twenty20s as well. He was bowled on nought on a diabolic pitch in Sydney and didn’t have the opportunity to bat in the second at MCG on Friday.

Tendulkar’s return would mean greater stability in the top order which is finally beginning to show promise with Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag.

One of the two regular Test opener would have to make way for Tendulkar at the start of the innings but both Gambhir and Sehwag would have no qualms in doing so.

Gambhir in fact has quite a decent record at number three and indeed slammed an outstanding 91 in the World Cup final coming one drop.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is another one who is just turning the corner of a miserable summer with unbeaten knocks of 48 and 21 in the two Twenty20 internationals.

India most probably would bring back Zaheer Khan and it could mean the omission of one of the two Kumars — Praveen or Vinay.

As has looked so far post-Test matches, returning all-rounder Irfan Pathan would have to wait for his chance for sometime later in the series.

Of the last 10 finished games between the two nations, India has won six while Australia has triumphed in four games.

It reflects the competitiveness which both teams have against each other in one-day arena.


Australia (Probable): David Warner, Matthew Wade (wk), Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Marsh, Dan Christian, Brett Lee, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc, Xavier Doherty.

India (Probable): Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni (c&wk) R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, R Vinay Kumar, Zaheer Khan.

Umpires: Nigel Llong (England) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia)

Third umpire: Paul Reiffel (Aus)

Match referee: Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe)

Time: 14:20 local (08:50 IST)