It makes a change to look ahead to a series involving India without expecting Virat Kohli’s side to wipe the floor with their opponents. They enter a three-match series with Australia on Tuesday with both sides in a confident mood and the outcome an intriguing proposition.
The two sides met in February in India at the time Australia was floundering a little. Still reeling from the Sandpapergate controversy and without David Warner and Steven Smith, as a result, the Aussies were struggling to perform. At 2-0 down in the five-match series, the Indians appeared to be rubbing salt into the wounds of the Aaron Finch led side. But Australia bounced back to take the last three games and restore pride.
That 3-2 series win marked a change in fortunes for the team from Down Under. It gave Finch’s team their first success in seven series and their first for two years. It inflicted India’s only home series defeat in the period running from 2015 to present.
Towards the end of 2020, the two sides meet in a Test series that, on current form, pits the best two teams in five-day cricket against each other. It is a series that pundits are already heralding as one of the highlights of the calendar year. India took their first-ever series win in Australia a year ago to end a 71-year wait for Test success against the ailing Australian side, but Australia are unrecognisable from the team that lost back then.
Australia have boomeranged back to form
Sandpapergate is a distant memory now that Steven Smith has batted England out of the Ashes last summer and David Warner blitzed his way back into form in the Australian summer. Marnus Labuschagne has entered the middle-order and made an instant impact to become one of the world’s most prolific run-scorers.
The pace attack, led by Pat Cummins, is the best on the planet. Josh Hazlewood would walk into any other international side but can’t find his way into his own countries line-up, which tells you all you need to know about the strength in the seam department. Add in spinner Nathan Lyon and the Australia team is balanced and has very few weaknesses.
The transformation of Australia as a cricket nation has been incredible. From a team rocked by the ball-tampering saga, without their toe best batsmen because of year-long bans and mocked around the rest of the globe, they have bounced back impressively.
In the Test arena, the Tim Paine led Australian’s have comfortably seen off Pakistan and New Zealand in recent months. With ODI cricket quite scarce in 2020 as most sides concentrate on playing T20 cricket in readiness for the World Cup in that format in Australia later in the year, this ODI series against a strong India side is one to savour.
Australia hasn’t played an ODI since the World Cup. They lost their last group game against South Africa, which led them to a semi-final loss against England. But the pride is back in Aussie cricket. Have they got enough to travel to India to upset Kohli’s side in the 50-over format? The next couple of weeks will provide the answer. If you fancy a whitewash you can get 11/1 on Australia to win 3-0 on the Betway App.
India has become invincible on home soil
India’s 2019 was one of almost total domination. The one disappointment came at the 50-over World Cup in England where, like Australia, they went out at the semi-final stage. Everything else India did last year was clinical, impressive and resulted in success. On home soil, this India side is incredibly hard to beat. In Test matches, they have won 13 straight series and in the one-day arena, they are tremendously strong too.
After the World Cup India have beaten West Indies 2-1 in an ODI series and taken T20I series wins over West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh.
There is no harder place to tour in world cricket and any side that wins in India has to earn that success. Only Australia did that in 2019. Can they repeat the feat?
Kohli – the proudest of men
Virat Kohli has a long memory. It will certainly stretch back as far as that 3-2 defeat at the start of 2019. The Indian captain will be eager to gain revenge.
Kohli is the most recognisable cricketer on the planet. The best batsman across all formats, the 31-year-old has not always impressed with his tactics on the pitch but is improving. He sets the bar for his personal performance ridiculously high and expects nothing less from his team. He is the most influential cricketer in the world.
When he speaks and offers his opinions on the game they are listened to. It has been heartening to hear his defence of five-day Test match cricket in recent weeks.
Kohli will have invested considerable thought into this series against Australia and will not want to lose it. Expect a big showing from the maestro in a series he will consider as crucial.
It has to be Virat
India boasts the two leading run-scorers in the ODI format in 2019. Opener Rohit Sharma (5/2 to be the top batsman of the series on the Betfair app) tops that list with 1490 runs in 27 knocks in a year where he top-scored at the Cricket World Cup and returned to open in the Test side with huge success. Rohit was rested for the recent T20I series against Sri Lanka but will play all three games against Australia.
Virat Kohli was in second place in the list for the last calendar year and is a man that raises his game against the best opposition. He has amassed 1727 runs at an average of 53.97 against Australia and scored eight hundreds and six fifties in 35 innings. The man is a phenomenon and even in the series defeat last year still hit two hundreds and averaged 62.
Other batsmen to consider for India are the returning Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul. Dhawan has been plagued by injury and was forced to bow out of the Cricket World Cup early. Who knows what fate lay ahead for his side if he’d continued to open in that tournament with Rohit?
In this series against the Aussies, there is only one man you want on your betting slip to score the most runs for his country and that is captain Kohli. As previously stated, a proud Kohli will want to win this contest and will be determined to bring his own runs to the party.
Marnus to seamlessly step up once again
Australia’s ODI skipper Aaron Finch led from the front in limited-overs cricket last year and was placed in fourth on the list of highest ODI run-scorers in 2019.
David Warner seemed a shadow of his former self when Stuart Broad had him on toast throughout the Ashes, but since then he has fully recovered his best form. The left-hander has hit four tons, two fifties and been powerful, destructive and consistent. A man with plenty of experience of scoring big Indian Premier League runs, the conditions will not put Warner off.
Marnus Labuschagne is interesting. The middle-order batsman replaced Steve Smith as a concussion sub at Lord’s in the Ashes series. He was felled himself by a bouncer from Jofra Archer, put on the backside he bounced straight back up, looked Archer in the eyes and hasn’t stopped scoring runs since. He has been given his chance in the ODI side on form and because he is an excellent player of spin.
He is a player that has taken all international hurdles in his stride so far, he comes into the series after scoring four tons in his last five Tests and could easily make life tough for India.
Aussie southpaw Usman Khawaja, who was in the top 10 ODI run-scorers of last year, has been dropped from this ODI side along with Glenn Maxwell. Ashton Turner is given a chance alongside Labuschagne.
India’s spin department could prove the difference
Jasprit Bumrah is back from a stress fracture to his lower back and that is huge for India. He played in all three of the T20Is against Sri Lanka in the last fortnight and came through unscathed. When fully firing there is no better white-ball paceman in world cricket.
India remains without the injured Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar.
Mohammed Shami has been in stellar form throughout 2019 and is fresh after being rested against Sri Lanka.
It is in the spin department where India may cause Australia maximum problems, however. In-home conditions it is the Indian twirlers who could curtail the Kangaroos in the middle overs, so take a look at Yuzvendra Chahal to take the most series wickets for his side.
Starc to edge out Cummins with the ball
Pat Cummins is the world number one Test ranked bowler and offers a huge amount to his side in the white ball arena too. He took 31 wickets in ODIs in 2019 and 16 of those came at a miserly rate in the one-day series against India, including the T20Is.
Josh Hazlewood will get his chance to remind everyone that he is one of the best bowlers in world cricket. In the spin department Adam Zampa’s leggies may cause a threat on potentially spinning tracks.
Mitchell Starc, with his left-arm pace, is right up there with Cummins as someone that can consistently move the white ball. His yorkers at the death are a ferocious weapon and he always takes wickets. The leading wicket-taker at the Cricket World Cup is the man to back to edge out Cummins in the wicket-taking stakes this time.
India to nick a close series
This is a short series but a mouthwatering one. Two of the best sides in the world go toe-to-toe and Australia’s success in India last year gives it additional spice. But it is hard to argue against India. They may have leaked a few games in the one-day arena of late, but they are a force of nature in their own conditions and it will take something special for Australia to lay a glove on them this time.
It may not be 3-0, but India win. They are odds-on to take the series but not at a prohibitive price.
1st ODI: Tues 14 Jan – Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
2nd ODI: Fri 17 Jan – Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot
3rd ODI: Sun 19 Jan – M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru