After registering their maiden Test series win in Australia, India look to get their World Cup preparations underway as they take on the host in a three-match ODI series. With less than six months remaining for the mega event in England this summer, both teams will look to sort out the team combinations and identify their best ODI XI.
India have a fairly settled ODI squad at the moment. Though they have an issue or two to address, there are not many places up for the taking. Though Rishabh Pant has been given a rest for the ODI series, BCCI's Chairman of Selectors MSK Prasad has stated that the dashing wicketkeeper-batsman is 'definitely a part' of India's 2019 World Cup plans.
Top three is fairly certain and Hardik Pandya is expected to be back in the XI. Rayudu, Jadhav, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are expected to play a key role in the ODI series, which starts on December 12 at Sydney.
Without much ado, we take a look at India's Predicted XI for the first ODI against Australia at Sydney.
Openers: Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan
The Indian vice-captain will be back for the ODIs after missing the Sydney Test owing to the birth of his child. Rohit Sharma is arguably the best opening batsman in One Day Internationals at the moment and key to India's success. The 31-year-old has scored 1030 runs in ODIs during the past 12 months. Rohit Sharma is also the second highest run-getter in this format in 2018.
Shikhar Dhawan will partner Rohit Sharma at the top. Dhawan also had a great 2018 in ODIs. He has scored 897 from 19 games runs in 2018, courtesy of two fifties and three hundreds. In 15 One Day International in Australia, the 33-year-old has scored 644 runs at an average of 42.93, which included three fifties and two hundreds. Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have enjoyed huge success as openers in ODIs for the past few years.
Middle-order: Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, and Kedar Jadhav
No surprises on who will take the No.3 spot. After a phenomenal 2018, Virat Kohli will look to continue his good form. The Indian captain has played 23 One Day Internationals in Australia and scored 1001 runs at an average of 50.05. He has struck four hundreds and four fifties. However, in four ODIs at Sydney, Kohli has scored only 33 runs at an average of 11, the highest score being 21.
Ambati Rayudu was brilliant for India in the recently concluded ODI series against West Indies as he scored 217 runs in four innings at an average of 72.33. Rayudu had a good 2018 with 392 runs in 11 ODI games. The 33-year-old has played only three ODI game in Australia and scored 58 runs at an average of 19.33.
Kedar Jadhav missed the crucial part of 2018 because of hamstring injuries. He got himself injured in the inaugural game of IPL 2018 and missed the entire campaign for CSK. He played a crucial role in India’s success at the Asia Cup 2018 but injured his hamstring again in the final. Jadhav has been a vital member of the Indian ODI squad in the past couple of years. A destructive hitter in the middle-order, Jadhav is a more than useful off-spinner.
Wicketkeeper and All-rounder: MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya
This probably could be his last trip to Australia. MS Dhoni has had a difficult 2018 with the bat and was even dropped from the T20I squad last year. However, with the World Cup in mind, the team management has decided to play him the limited-overs series against Australia and New Zealand.
Dhoni’s exploits with the bat aren’t great on Australian soil. The 37-year-old has played 32 ODIs in Australia and scored 860 runs at an average of 41. He has managed five 50+ scores, the highest being 88*. All of India would want Dhoni to get back to his best and score some runs against Australia.
This will be Hardik Pandya’s first One Day International in Australia. Pandya suffered a serious back injury at the 2018 Asia Cup and spent the rest of the year on the treatment table. With his all-round abilities, Pandya lends balance to this Indian team, especially in overseas conditions.
He has won quite a few games for India with both the bat and ball in the past couple of years. It is important for Kohli to get him back in form before the World Cup in England. Pandya has played five ODIs against Australia and scored 222 runs at an average of 56.
Bowlers: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav
In the absence of rested Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is expected to lead the Indian pace attack. The 28-year-old had a mediocre 2018 with the ball as he struggled for consistency. He will have to open the bowling for India and also have to do the job in the death overs. Kumar has played five One Day Internationals in Australia and picked up only two wickets. This will be Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s first ODI game in Sydney.
Kuldeep Yadav had a dream 2018 with the ball in One Day Internationals. With 45 wickets, the slow left-arm chinaman bowler is the second highest wicket-taker in ODIs for 2018, three less than Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan. The 24-year-old is an integral part of the Indian bowling lineup and a player to watch out for in the ODI series. He consistently picks up wickets in the middle overs and the key to restricting Australian big-hitters.
Bowlers: Yuzvendra Chahal, Khaleel Ahmed
Along with Kuldeep, Yuzvendra Chahal has played a huge role in India’s recent ODI success. The 28-year-old is one of the top wicket-takers in ODIs for 2018 with 29 wickets in 17 games. Also, Ravindra Jadeja has performed exceedingly well ever since he made his comeback into the team. However, Chahal’s variations and wicket taking abilities will put him ahead of the left arm spinner.
BCCI’s decision to rest Jasprit Bumrah gives Khaleel Ahmed a chance to stake his claim for a place in the XI at the World Cup in England. It is going to be toss up between Khaleel Ahmed and Shami for the final seamer spot and Shami’s workload in the Tests means, he will at least be rested for the first ODI. The 21-year-old has played six One Day Internationals for India so far and picked up 11 wickets at an economy rate of 5.07.