The Border-Gavaskar Trophy is done and dusted. The World Test Championship final awaits in June. But for the next week — before many from both camps gel as teammates for the Indian Premier League — the focus will shift to the format that will gain prominence as the year progresses.
The three-match ODI series, starting at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday, will be crucial to the preparation of both camps for the World Cup, to be played in India towards the end of the year.
However, both teams go into the series without some of their key players. In fact, both the regular captains will not feature in Mumbai. While India captain Rohit Sharma will join the squad for the next two ODIs after seeking leave for personal reasons, Pat Cummins has stayed back home after his mother’s demise.
As a result, Hardik Pandya will become India’s 27th ODI captain, while Steve Smith will continue to fill in for Cummins.
Moreover, India will miss Shreyas Iyer, who has been ruled out of the series due to a recurrence of his back injury. He thus joins pacers Jasprit Bumrah and M. Prasidh Krishna (back surgeries) to be sidelined in the build-up for the World Cup.
Australia, too, is dealing with fitness issues. All-rounder Mitchell Marsh, having recovered from ankle surgery, will not be able to bowl in the series while David Warner’s availability for the opener remains uncertain. The veteran is recovering from a fractured elbow suffered during the Test series.
Despite the injury blows, the cricket fans will be hoping for a series even more interesting than the Border-Gavaskar Trophy over the next week. While the Wankhede Stadium has been sold out, more than the hard surface, the weather remains a concern.
With unseasonal rains in most parts of Maharashtra over the last couple of days, the teams trained in overcast conditions. Light showers have been predicted for Friday evening, thus jeopardising the possibility of a full game.
It will be interesting to see if Hardik and head coach Rahul Dravid will factor in the weather while finalising the combination. In Rohit’s absence, Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill will open the innings while Suryakumar Yadav is a certainty in place of Shreyas.
Finalising the bowling combination will be a challenge. Another point of speculation is whether all the three spin-bowling all-rounders — Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar — will be included in the squad at the expense of wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Should India opt for two specialist spinners, Shardul Thakur, Umran Malik and Jaydev Unadkat, back in the ODI fold, will be competing for the third pacer’s slot alongside Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj.
The teams (from):
India: Hardik Pandya (Capt.), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, K.L. Rahul (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Umran Malik, Jaydev Unadkat and Washington Sundar.
Australia: Steve Smith (Capt.), David Warner, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Sean Abbott,Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Ashton Agar, Marcus Stoinis, Josh Inglis, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa.
Match starts at 1.30 p.m.