The Big Picture
The scoreline of 2-0 might reflect another one-way traffic in favor of the Men in Blue, but sometimes numbers do not tell the complete story.
On pitches which look more like watching ODIs in 1999 than in 2019, the game has had its ebbs and flows representing a fair balance between bat and bowl.
The Australians have had their chances in this series- especially in Nagpur. The visitors found themselves in a position of strength on multiple occasions with both bat and ball but wasn't able to win the key moments which is a reflection of a team not having won a lot of games. But, for a side, that has been struggling to find its way in ODI cricket, to push India to the brink is a sign of progress.
Though Shaun Marsh's comeback did not come in line with expectations, Aaron Finch's return to form would have given a sigh of relief to Justin Langer and the team-management and obviously to Finch himself. The Aussie captain stitched a crucial 86-run stand for the opening wicket to set-up Australia's run-chase. Another key difference between Australia and India has been the strike-rotation.
Virat Kohli, during his knock of 116, laid a perfect template as to how one should pace his innings on a dual-pace wicket. The Australians took just 91 singles in their innings as compared to India's 112, which essentially turned out to be the difference in the world. This is where Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh will be crucial for Australia-especially against the spinners.
Speaking of Aaron Finch, his nemesis during January's ODI series between these two sides; Bhuvneshwar Kumar is back in the squad after having been rested for the T20I and ODI series, which throws up an interesting conundrum for Kohli and the team management. Mohammad Shami has been excellent ever since he has returned to the ODI set-up last January, and has been pushing Bhuvi for the second seamers' slot in the World Cup XI. But, given the need for Bhuvneshwar Kumar to get some games under his belt after a break and Aaron Finch's issues against him, the pacer from Uttar Pradesh might get a nod ahead of Shami at Ranchi.
The spotlight will be on Shikhar Dhawan too. The southpaw has hit a rut after his Asia Cup exploits and has scored just 376 runs in his last 15 ODI innings with just two fifty-plus scores, and the team management will hope the left-hander gets in some sort of touch before they try out KL Rahul.
Ideally, India would like to close out the series to allow themselves a chance to dig more in their reserves and give the likes of Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul for the last two ODIs. Vijay Shankar's resurgence has thrown up a plethora of new dynamics to how the Indian playing XI can be shaped up for the World Cup. On a tricky pitch at Nagpur, Shankar looked the most convincing of the batsman alongside Virat Kohli, off-course. He looked like a proper batsman hitting Zampa down the ground and equally at ease against the quicks, pulling and driving them with ease, which ignited a new school of thought as to whether India can play both Shankar and Pandya in the same team with the latter batting at No.4.
The thought has also arisen after seeing Ambati Rayudu's form blow hot and cold in the past. Rayudu has had two ordinary outings in the series and the game at Ranchi will be crucial for his personal sake as Rishabh Pant breathes down his neck. Off-course, on the contrary, if India is looking at Shankar as purely an all-rounder, his bowling despite his final over heroics still needs a lot of improvement, and it will serve the team better if he is given more opportunities to bowl, unlike what we have seen in the series.
In the first two ODIs, Shankar has bowled just 4.3 overs, which has led to India using Kedar Jadhav as a full-time fifth bowling option, which wouldn't necessarily be fatal on the tracks like we have seen in this series, but considering the World Cup is in England, and Hardik Pandya's penchant with injuries, Shankar needs to be given more opportunities to bowl in the remaining three games.
While India digs deep in their reserves, for Australia, it is now time to bring to the table everything they have learned from the two defeats and stitch a performance that'll help them stay alive in the series. As for Ranchi, and its cricketing folklore, they'll be hoping they can bid MS Dhoni a victorious farewell as the former captain gears up to what potentially could be his last International outing at his home venue.
Venue- JSCA International Stadium Complex, Ranchi
Match Timings- Friday, March 08, 2019, 01:30 PM IST
What to expect?
Seeing the pitches on offer in the series thus far and the past reputation of the venue, spin might once again be the deciding factor. However, the fast outfield and small ground might be the equalizer as far as the batsmen are concerned.
Do you Know?
- If India wins at Ranch, it will give the Men in Blue their 50th ODI win against the Australians.
India ODI record vs Australia-
P- 133, W- 49, L- 74, NR- 10, W/L- 0.662
- A win at Ranchi will also give Virat Kohli his 50th ODI win as skipper. Only Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting have achieved the feat in fewer games.
- Rohit Sharma needs 155 more runs to become the ninth Indian player to cross 8,000 ODI runs.
- If India wins at Ranchi, this will be the Men in Blue's third consecutive ODI series win against Australia. India beat the Kangaroo 4-1 & 2-1 in 2017 and 2018-19 respectively and their last series loss [1-4] came back in 2016.
Team News & Playing 11
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was seen having an extended session with both bat and ball ahead of the 3rd ODI. He might replace Mohammad Shami in the playing 11.
Playing 11- Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli [c], Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
The Aussies went in with two spinners at Nagpur, And, seeing the past record at the venue, they might look to continue with the same. Pat Cummins was brilliant with the new ball in the last game and is likely to continue playing that role which means Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendroff will vie for the second seamer spot alongside Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Playing 11- Aaron Finch, Usman Khwaja, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon