The spotlight will once again be on KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja when India take on Australia in the second ODI in Visakhapatnam on Sunday, with regular captain Rohit Sharma returning to lead the side after missing the opening game in Mumbai. India defeated Australia by five wickets in a low-scoring game at the Wankhede Stadium, with Rahul, who struggled to find form during the Border-Gavaskar series leading to him being dropped for the third and fourth Tests, scoring a patient unbeaten 75 as the hosts cantered home.
Jadeja, playing ODI cricket after nearly eight months due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery, scored an unbeaten 45 in the chase of 188 on Friday. He also bowled a tight spell and returned figures of 2/46 to be declared ‘Player of the Match’.
With the ODI World Cup being hosted by India later this year, an in-form Rahul and a fully-fit Jadeja will be an asset, and the three-match series will help the selectors assess the duo’s progress.
India would look to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and also try to make amends with the bat, after they were in a spot of bother at 4/39, and later 5/83, before Rahul and Jadeja came together at the crease to guide the hosts to victory with 61 balls to spare.
Rohit Sharma’s return to captaincy duties will certainly give solidity to the top order, which crumbled to the pace and variations of Australian quick Mitchell Starc.
The lanky left-arm pacer’s three-wicket burst at the start put India under tremendous pressure, with Virat Kohli (4), Suryakumar Yadav (0) and Shubman Gill (20) departing in quick succession after Marcus Stoinis had made an early dent by dismissing Ishan Kishan for three runs.
Indian batters have occasionally looked tentative against quality left-arm pacers, and facing Starc in the remaining two games should give them good practice in home conditions, with efforts focused towards making preparations for the World Cup in October-November.
With Sharma set to open, Kishan will likely make way for the regular captain.
While not much should be read into Kohli and Gill’s below-par scores in the first ODI, Suryakumar Yadav not being able to find his mojo in the 50-over format is a reason for concern.
A marauder with the bat in T20Is, Suryakumar is evidently still finding his feet in ODIs. He has gone without a fifty in all five ODIs this year. Surya has now played 15 ODIs (13 innings) without a score exceeding 50.
However, with no timeline set for Shreyas Iyer’s return, India will keep auditioning Suryakumar for the role at No. 4.
India’s bowling did a tremendous job in Mumbai with pacers Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj flourishing on a pace-friendly Wankhede pitch. But wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav could not make a strong impression.
However, the team management is not expected to tinker with the bowling line-up, with Pandya playing the role of a third seamer to perfection in Mumbai.
The weather forecast for the second ODI is of scattered thunderstorms at least in the first half, which also means that pacers from either side can swing the ball if the conditions are windy.
Australia want to try out different combinations during the series. On Friday, they went in with four all-rounders — Mitchell Marsh, Cameron Green, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell — and still couldn’t trouble India much, which would be a concern for captain Steve Smith.
As a makeshift opener in the absence of David Warner, Marsh provided a rapid start with a 65-ball 81 but Australia lost the way in the middle overs, crashing from 129/2 to 188 all out against quality pace in Mumbai. The visitors lost six wickets for a meagre 19 runs despite having a deep batting line-up, something that they will look to work on.
Smith and Marnus Labuschagne may have encountered ‘difficult’ pitches in the Test series but the wickets for ODIs in India are usually batter-friendly, and both the Aussie mainstays will be expected to do more.
Smith has not crossed the 50-run mark so far on this India tour. For someone who has a mountain of runs against India, the Australian stand-in skipper will look to end the drought.
Australia’s fast bowling looked terrific in Mumbai, with Sean Abbott keeping a lid on the Indians with tight lines and Green and Stoinis also chipping in.
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