India eye domination, Australia aim revival in T20I series
By Tapan Mohanta
Ranchi, Oct 6 (PTI) Comprehensive winners in the ODIs, India would aim to extend the domination, while Australia's listless team would be eyeing a change of fortunes in the three-match T20 series beginning here tomorrow.
India won the one-day series against Australia 4-1 to reclaim the No.1 spot in the ICC rankings and the hosts would be aiming for a perfect finish to the campaign with the T20I series.
A reliable pool of bowlers to complement their traditionally strong batting has made Virat Kohli's side quite formidable, especially on home turf.
They have looked flawless, be it against reigning world champions Australia or a new-look Sri Lanka.
"We just want to improve ourselves every time, we keep asking questions to each other. We keep learning from the senior players on what else we can do and how to improve, how to adapt to different conditions and the wickets. The focus is on training. We don't focus on results. We want to get better every game," said pacer Jasprit Bumrah ahead of the opening match.
The rise of Hardik Pandya, the guile of the wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have made life difficult for Australia in the one-day series.
And it could be worse for Australia in the T20Is as India boast of a 9-4 head-to-head record.
In the last T20I bilateral series, India made a 3-0 clean-sweep in Australia in January last year while they have lost only once out of the five series played between the two nations.
For India, all eyes would be on old warhorse Ashish Nehra, who has been recalled for the T20I series, having last played against England in February this year.
The 38-year-old's ability to notch up pace and his death bowling ability will be a key factor for India as the left-arm pacer would add variety to the pace attack of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
Nehra has played 26 T20Is and took 34 wickets and still has the world batsmen in awe, something that was seen during the Sunrisers Hyderabad's campaign in IPL.
Man-of-the-series in the ODI series, Pandya -- 222 runs at an average of 55.50 and six wickets -– has been able to establish himself as a key player in the side. He is seen as a vital cog in the wheel for India's road to the 2019 World Cup.
His match-winning 66-ball 83 at No.7 in the first ODI in Chennai, with a hat-trick of sixes against Adam Zampa, not only demoralised the Aussies but virtually sealed the momentum of the series in favour of India.
Then came a 72-ball 78 after he was promoted to No.4 in the Indore ODI. The Baroda-player will turn 24 next week and he has already being touted as the next 'Kapil Dev in the making'.
Pandya, along with Kedar Jadhav, will be the two key Indian all-rounders while opener Rohit Sharma, the top run- getter in the ODI series (296 runs), will look to continue his good run.
Shikhar Dhawan, who had opted out of the five-match ODI series, is back after attending to his ill wife. Also there is KL Rahul, who has been chosen ahead of Ajinkya Rahane despite the latter's four successive fifties in the ODIs.
Rahul has happy memories of Ranchi as the last time India played at the JSCA International Stadium Complex in a Test versus Australia, he scored a 67 in a drawn affair.
Rahul is returning after recovering from a shoulder injury and did not get a chance in the ODI series. But he has been retained for the T20I series and he would look to make it count.
For Australia, it's paramount to get back the winning rhythm with the Ashes coming up in a month's time.
Their over-reliance on Steve Smith and David Warner, coupled with the middle-order's failure was the reason for Australia's failure in the ongoing series.
Since his outstanding tour of India in February and March, Smith has managed 347 runs at 34.70 in 10 ODIs in the Champions Trophy and tours of Bangladesh and India, and is yet to score a century.
With middle-order equally inconsistent, the onus will be on the opening duo of Warner and Aaron Finch to give them a strong start.
Finch scored 250 runs in three innings, while Warner made 245 runs from five outings in the just-concluded ODI series and they would hold the key to Australia's campaign in the T20Is.
Uncapped left-arm speedster Jason Behrendorff, along with wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine, all-rounders Moises Henriques and Dan Christian, are the new additions in Australia's T20I squad.
With James Pattinson ruled out of the Ashes, Behrendorff will be closely monitored in the T20I series. He, along with Nathan Coulter-Nile, the leading wicket-taker in the ODI series, will look to make an impact.
Behrendorff maintained that the morale of the side is good despite the 1-4 loss in the ODI series.
"We speak a lot about having a good attitude at training and games. We are doing everything we can to remain positive. That's a big part for the new guys coming into the group. We need to keep the ground buzzing," the rookie pacer said.
India: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Axar Patel.
Australia: Steve Smith (C), David Warner (VC), Jason Behrendorff, Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.
Match Starts: 1900 IST