The Big Picture
In cricket, there is a cliche, a win is a win irrespective of the margin between the two sides. But, sometimes it is the minimal margins that serve you dual purpose- a victory off-course and progress as far as the bigger picture is concerned.
It was evident from Virat Kohli's admission in the press-conference of his reaction after India were reduced to 4-99 at Hyderabad. "This is good," said, the skipper to Coach Ravi Shastri. It indeed was good; refreshing almost. For, if you have followed Indian ODI performances over the past three years, there is a certain method to their madness. The bowlers restrict the opposition to a sub-par total and two of the three in Dhawan, Kohli, and Rohit stroll to an easy run-chase, ensuring not enough game-time for the middle-order. But, in the past six months, India has managed to chase a 220+ total thrice with none of their top-3 crossing a fifty. That's progress.
And, the man that has been at the center of all three of them- Dubai, MCG, and Hyderabad are Kedar Jadhav. A lot of people underestimate Jadhav, but make no mistake, Jadhav is a shrewd cricketer with an ice-cool temperament. There is a cutting edge to Jadhav. He has got this knack of raising his game in crunch situations- with bat or ball and has gradually become a key-member as far as the ODI is concerned.
On two of three occasions, Jadhav's ally has been the original ice-cool, MS Dhoni. The duo seems to complement well with Dhoni pushing Jadhav for quick-singles while the latter scoring crucial boundaries to release the pressure off MS Dhoni. Dhoni and Jadhav's blossoming partnership has been one of the shining points for India since Australia tour.
Dhoni has always loved batting against Australia. His average of 47.26 [1607 runs] in 52 ODIs vindicate it. His love affair with the Kangaroos has been fine-tuned to the zenith in the past four ODIs- four consecutive 50s. To make matters worrisome for the Aussies is the venue where the second ODI is set to be played- Nagpur. Dhoni loves batting at Nagpur. In five matches that he has played at Nagpur, the Indian captain has racked up 268 runs including a ton against Australia back in 2009.
Apart from Dhoni and Jadhav's partnership, two other things happened in the first ODI. Firstly, the frequent injuries to Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar's not-so-impressive bowling returns has given another dynamic to the make-up for India's possible playing-11. If Hardik Pandya isn't fit, India cannot play two wrist-spinners, for it will dilute the lower-order batting which brings Ravinder Jadeja into the picture. Jadeja bowled pretty well in the last game, going in at under four runs per over but his ability to bowl on flat tracks is still to be tested.
So, it will be interesting to see will India play two wrist-spinners or juggle between Kuldeep and Chahal along with Jadeja at Nagpur. It will be an important game for Shikhar too. With just four games to go before the World Cup and KL Rahul waiting in the wings, the left-hander would be hoping to shrug of his indifferent form [1 fifty in last 13 innings] at Nagpur.
While India continues to fine-tune their playing 11 by trying out different combinations, the Aussies have a lot to ponder about, especially in the batting department. Skipper Aaron Finch's horrendous run-of-form at the top of the order has made the matters worse with calls getting louder for his exit from the side.
One of the issues that have plagued the Australian batting-unit in the past few years is their inability to their inability to convert a series into a really big inning. It again came back to haunt them at Hyderabad with the likes of Khwaja , Maxwell , Stoinis  throwing it away at crucial junctures. And, so Shaun Marsh's return to the side will be a huge boost to the middle-order.
Marsh has been Australia's best batsman in 50-over cricket, and his experience of playing in Indian conditions will come in handy. It will also allow Marcus Stoinis to slot-in at his usual spot, adding fire-power in the lower-order. So, will Ashton Turner make way for Shaun Marsh? Will Aaron Finch be able to buy a run at Nagpur? Will Coulter-Nile carry his progress as a bowling all-rounder or will Adam Zampa get Virat Kohli, again? Plenty of questions galore.
Venue:- Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur
Match Timing:- Thursday, March 05, 2019, 01:30 PM IST
What to expect?
The first ODI at Hyderabad threw a very different pitch as opposed to what everyone had said. But, going by conventional numbers and history, Nagpur is a very high-scoring ground. Remember, when India chased down 350 with Virat Kohli top-scoring in the end? Yep, that was in Nagpur against Australia in 2013.
Do you know?
- MS Dhoni loves batting at Nagur. In 5 matches, that the former Indian captain has played at the venue, he has racked up 268 runs including two hundred.
- India has won all three ODIs against Australia in Nagpur.
- Rohit Sharma is 155 runs away from completing 8,000 runs in ODI cricket. Rohit scored 125 at the venue against Australia in 2017.
- MS Dhoni has scored four consecutive 50s against Australia.
- Virat Kohli needs 22 more runs to complete 9,000 runs for Team India [across formats] as captain.
- In 2013, Kohli shellacked the Aussie bowlers to the tune of 115 not-out to help India overhaul the target of 351.
Team News & Playing 11
The injury to Pandya and Vijay Shankar's unfruitful returns with the ball means India are likely to persist with Jadeja and one of the wrist spinners. The rest should be the game except if India decided to give some game time to Pant or KL Rahul.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli [c], Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Ravinder Jadeja Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
The Aussies, on the other hand, will welcome back in-form middle-order batsman, Shaun Marsh which means Ashton Turner will warm the bench. Also, it would be interesting to see if Pat Cummins gets some rest, bringing Jhye Richarson into the picture.
Aaron Finch [c], Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Handscomb, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendroff/Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins