Can the current Australian team put up a fight against the Indian line-up?
After suffering a 4-0 loss in the Test series played earlier in the year, Australia would want to put up a better showing in the limited overs series, that begins with the one-off T20 at Rajkot.
Though the Test side has suffered humiliation in India and against England in the Ashes, the ODI side has performed relatively better by winning the series against England 2-1. They are also the second-ranked ODI side in the world, behind India.
The past record favours the Australian side as they have had the better of India in almost all the bilateral one-day series played between these two sides and they also lead the head-to-head battle by a long way. But all that had a lot to do with the invincible Australian side of the past.
The Test team was dubbed as the weakest to have toured the Indian sub-continent and with the one-day side also being talked about in the same breath, George Bailey and his men would want to prove that wrong. Also, with the return Ashes coming up in Australia, this series would give opportunity for some of the fringe players to stake a claim in the Test side.
One of the major strengths for the current Australian side has to be the experience of playing in the IPL and the Champions League. Four Australians of the present squad took part in the CLT20 finals, with Mitchell Johnson not included in the playing XI.
The captain of the Australian team, George Bailey and the current coach, in the absence of Darren Lehmann, Steve Rixon, were part of the Chennai Super Kings set-up which has Indian players Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and the captain MS Dhoni.
Having closely worked with these Indian players, they would know how they think and how they respond to pressure situations.
Having gone around the country during the IPL matches, the Australians would not be alien to the Indian pitches also.
Another strength of this Australian side has to be its pace bowling. With the likes of Nathan Counter-Nile, Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner doing well for their respective IPL sides, they are not short of either match-practice or confidence.
Add to that the consistency of Clint McKay, who has been very good for the Australians with the new-ball and in the death overs, then the pace bowling has the potential to ask some serious questions of the Indian batting line-up.
The opening partnership of Shane Watson and Aaron Finch can be a tough preposition for the Indian bowling, as the pace bowlers apart from Bhuvneshwar Kumar are either inexperienced or have not consistently delivered. If they get off to a good start, Watson and Finch could destroy the Indian bowling line-up and expose the weak-links in it.
Coming to a place like India, two things are must for a visiting side. Their batsmen, even the openers, must be capable of handling the spinners as they could be posed with the spin threat right from the first ball of the innings. Secondly, they should have good spin bowlers who can effectively utilize the spin-friendly conditions.
But it was in these two aspects the Australians lacked when they toured India for the Tests. They were given a royal thrashing and not much could have changed in these six months, as they were either playing in the T20 leagues or getting beaten in the Ashes, where also thy struggled against the spinners.
This is where absence of Michael Clarke, the batsman – who is their best player of spin bowling – will be a big blow to the team. And the spinners, Doherty, Maxwell and Voges, could not be expected to pose any real threat to the Indians.
The side also lacks international experience and when faced in a pressure situation before thousands of vociferous supporters, things could go wrong.
The major trump card for the Australians will be the presence of the all-rounder Shane Watson. He does not seem to have any fitness issues and though he didn’t get any big scores in the CLT20, he is expected to play in a big part in the one-day series.
In his last one-day international, he smashed the England bowlers to all parts of the ground, en-route to a magnificent 143. His IPL experience too will come in handy, as in the nest he is seen mentoring the younger players.
James Faulkner will be another person whom Bailey will bank on to deliver the goods. He has been very good for the Rajasthan Royals and has a first-hand experience of the Indian conditions. A very good bowler at the death, his Yorkers and variations will come in handy when face against the mighty Indian middle-order.