India vs Australia: Men in Blue look to put Asia Cup disappointment behind as home season gets underway

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Team India will be eager to put the disappointment of the Asia Cup behind and commence the final touches to their World Cup preparation in the T20I series against Australia starting Tuesday.

Australia’s relatively short trip, with just three T20Is in their itinerary, marks the beginning of the Indian home season and the Men in Blue will be counting on the energy boost that the home crowd provides to come out on top.

And given their opening clash of the T20 World Cup takes place a little more than a month after the first game of this series, the three T20Is against Australia effectively become a dress rehearsal of sorts for Rohit Sharma and Co as they look to add some finishing touches their plans and gain some momentum in the build-up to the big event.

Read: With six games before showpiece event, Rohit wants players to exit comfort zone

And the fact that they’re up against the T20 world champions themselves makes the preparation even more ideal for the Indians, who have had a mixed run so far this year and will hope to end things on a high with an ICC trophy added to their cabinet. As for Australia, the tour provides them another opportunity to test themselves on Indian soil, where victory is hard to come no matter the format.

The opening dilemma

Virat Kohli’s magnificent 122 not out in their final game of the Asia Cup against Afghanistan certainly has created a headache of sorts for the team management, even if it brought immense joy to the former India captain as well as a billion fans back home.

That Kohli’s 71st hundred came as an opener, due to Rohit missing out on the game, has reignited the debate as to who the India skipper’s opening partner should be. Rahul hasn’t been in the best touch since returning from a long injury layoff in the Zimbabwe tour; the vice-captain got off to promising starts more often than not, but wasn’t able to convert them into bigger, match-winning scores, with his strike rate also under the scanner.

Rohit, however, has firmly backed Rahul to continue as the opener, with Kohli a “definite option” as a backup in case things with the Lucknow Super Giants captain don’t quite work out.

“We are not going to experiment with that position a lot. His performances often go unnoticed. He is a very important player for India,” Rohit told reporters in Mohali in the build-up to the first T20I.

Additionally, Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel return to the squad after missing out on the Asia Cup due to injuries, which will come as a major boost to the Men in Blue. While the former slots into the XI as the leader of the attack right away, the latter’s inclusion is subject to the team combination. And despite a couple of poor 19th overs in the Asia Cup, skipper Rohit and head coach Rahul Dravid are also likely to persist with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who finished as the top wicket-taker in the Asia Cup.

Focus on David

As for the Aussies, the spotlight will fall on T20 star Tim David, who is likely to make his Australia debut in the tour after having represented Singapore in 14 T20Is over the last three years. David certainly has made a name for himself in the T20 leagues across the world, especially in the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he struck at over 200 for the Mumbai Indians in the latter half of their 2022 campaign.

With a couple of middle-order regulars in Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh ruled out of the tour due to injuries along with left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc, David is likely to slot right in and share the middle-overs duties with the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, etc. The 26-year-old will be hoping to make a case for his selection in the World Cup XI as well even if he still is a couple of spots behind in the pecking order.

The series will also be an opportunity for skipper Aaron Finch to rediscover his form heading into the big tournament after a poor run in the last two months which has witnessed the opening batter register seven single-digit scores in the last eight outings, a run that suddenly has put a question mark over his head as far as his captaincy is concerned despite holding the distinction of being the only man to help Australia win a T20 World Cup.

And in regular opening partner David Warner’s absence, Josh Inglis is expected to accompany the skipper to the centre at the start of the innings.

Squads:

India: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav.

Australia: Aaron Finch (Captain), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins (vc), Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.

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