Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Australia v India | Tuesday 12 January | W.A.C.A Ground | 05:20
A massively depleted Australian squad will be looking to continue their impressive start to 2016 when they take on India in a five-match ODI series. The first ODI takes place at the famous Western Australia Cricket Ground on Tuesday morning.
With little separating the two sides on the ICC ODI rankings – the Australians currently top the standings but are only 13 points above the tourists who sit on 114 ranking points – this series should prove to be one for the ages.
To Win Match
Okay, so they may be missing few key players but underestimate this Australian sides' capabilities at your own peril. The current World Cup holders enjoyed a sensational 2015 which saw them win 15 of the 19 ODI’s they played. They will now be looking to continue that terrific run of form by defeating an Indian side who have struggled in the shorter format of the game recently.
Despite losing the likes of Shane Watson (dropped), frontline quicks Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Starc (injured), as well as devastating opening bat Dave Warner (who’s likely to go on paternity leave at some point in the series), Darren Lehman’s side will still fancy their chances of winning the series. And why wouldn’t they? They defeated the Indians twice in 2015 and that will surely give them a confidence boost. And while they are missing a whole host of quick bowlers, through injury and retirement, they will be confident that their available pace bowlers can rattle the Indian batsmen on quick, bouncy decks.
The fast nature of most Australian decks may prove to be the trump card for the Baggy Greens. While the Indian batsmen tend to dominate on the slower sub-continent wickets, they do have their issues when it comes to playing on pitches that are quicker.
With the above paragraph in mind, Josh Hazlewood is likely to be the key man for Australia in the first ODI. The right arm quick may not be as fast as the likes of Mitchell Starc and the recently retired Mitchell Johnson, but he is by no means a slouch. Having modeled his bowling action on Australian legend, Glen McGrath, the New South Wales-born Hazlewood replicates his childhood hero’s bowling style by sacrificing that extra five to six kilometers worth of speed in a bid to be more accurate. He does have the ability to surprise the batsmen with a slightly quicker ball though. He also has a decent bouncer in his locker and this may be the delivery that troubles the Indian top order the most.
Hazelwood will spearhead an extremely inexperienced bowling attack which includes Big Bash stars Joel Paris and Scott Boland. While the duo have impressed during the T20 competition, they are yet to come up against a batting line-up of the caliber of the Indians. How they perform on their international debuts may determine which side takes a lead in the series.
Despite losing the out of form Smith, the Aussies still boast an experienced batting line-up. Dave Warner will participate in the first ODI. He’s likely to open the batting with Aaron Finch and if the duo get going the Indian bowlers could be in for a long day at the W.A.C.A. The likes of Glen Maxwell, George Bailey, James Faulkner and Mitch Marsh can all add imputes to the middle to latter part of a batting innings.
For the Indians, this series offers a chance to avenge their narrow World Cup semi-final defeat to Australia. While twelve months is a long time in cricket, this Indian unit is probably still carrying mental scars from said loss.
The last few months have proved a bit dour for Indian cricket. Following their World Cup exit, the Indians could only muster up six wins from their subsequent 11 ODI fixtures. Included in this dismal run of form was a series loss to Bangladesh, which was probably one of the lowest points in the history of Indian cricket.
Following that series defeat, the Indians hosted South Africa in a bilateral series that included five ODI’s. Having lost the T20 segment of the series 2-0, the Indian public started to get a bit restless. Things got worse for the hosts as they went down 3-2 in the ODI segment of the South African’s tour.
While their victory in the Test segment of the aforementioned series helped to stem the tide of criticism that was coming their way, I still think the men in blue will be relieved that this series is taking place on Australian soil and not in front of their home fans. Cricket in India is like a religion, and when the national side fails to win, the whole country goes into mourning. A few back to back defeats, and that mourning transforms to anger and the men who bare the brunt of that anger are the players. While conditions will surely favour the hosts, the Indians will still be relieved to be going on tour.
Having said all that, the Indians are going to have to adjust to Australian conditions if they are to make this a successful jaunt down under. While their batsmen are going to have to assimilate to that extra bit of bounce and pace that goes with batting on Australian decks; the biggest adjustment may have to come from their selection panel. Who may have to go the orthodox route when it comes to selecting a bowling attack.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to the Indian selection policy over recent years has been to field as many spinners as possible. While this works a treat on slow-turning sub-continent decks, it’s unlikely to bear fruit on the quicker Australian decks.
With this in mind, I suspect the Indian selectors may opt to field four frontline quicks. Rishi Dhawan, possible debutant Barinder Sran, and veterans Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma are likely to be the four men tasked with extracting some pace and bounce from the W.A.C.A deck.
Much like the Australians, India’s batting line-up consists of some experienced campaigners. MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli are likely to be the two men that India look to during their batting innings. The two veterans are capable of taking a game away from an opposing side in the blink of an eye. If they can acclimatise to the playing conditions – which they should be able to as they’ve visited Australian shores a few times now – then India may just be in with a shout of claiming the spoils come the conclusion of the first ODI.
The Western Australian Cricket Association Ground or the W.A.C.A as it’s affectionately known as, is your typical Australian cricket venue. The playing surface is surrounded by massive stands which hold a capacity crowd of some 20,000 spectators.
The pitch, famed for being one of the quickest and bounciest in world cricket, will suit the host’s bowling attack a lot more than the visitor's. The steep bounce and extra bit of pace will provide a real challenge to the Indians who rarely play on any deck that see the ball bounce over knee high. While there may be a touch of hyperbole about my last statement, it does help to illustrate the challenge the Indians face.
The Likes of Hazelwood and Scott Boland will be licking their lips at the prospect of bowling on this deck. Expect the two quicks to implement a bit of the good old chin music when bowling to the likes of MS Dhoni and the rest of the Indian top to middle order.
Verdict: Australia 5/10
If the game was being played anywhere else bar the W.A.C.A, I’d be tempted to back the visitors to claim the spoils. I can see the hosts making the most of the favourable conditions and subsequently taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series.
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