New Delhi: India will have a lot to prove when they take on Australia in the tri-series opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Though they will be upbeat following their 8-wicket win over the Kangaroos in the second T20 on Friday, the world champions can't really afford to get their hopes up considering what has transpired in recent times.
They need more than a T20 win to bring positivity among the players and fans and to erase the ignominy of eight consecutive Test losses.
They need more than a T20 win to bring positivity among the players and fans.
The Melbourne deck is undoubtedly one of the most sporting tracks in Australia and going by Friday's T20, one can confidently say that it will favour both batsmen and bowlers.
It's still not clear whether the same pitch will be used on Sunday but that should be of no concern as all the pitches at the MCG are of the same nature, more or less.
Sachin Tendulkar will be keen as mustard to reach the historic ton. Everyone has been waiting in disappointment since the World Cup final in April last year to see the milestone but with so many ODIs coming his way over the next one month, the chances of the sought-after ton have never been greater.
With Ravindra Jadeja promising a lot following his Man-of-the-Match performance in the second T20, Ravichandran Ashwin, who has been a regular feature of late, is now certain to miss out. Rightly so, as Jadeja bring everything into the game: economical bowling, feisty batting and vibrant fielding. Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and one of Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav will complete the bowling make-up. The unfortunate Irfan Pathan will have to sit out again.
No prizes for guessing when it comes to batting. Tendulkar will take his place at the top alongside Virender Sehwag. They will be followed by Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and last not least captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni himself, who must be eyeing a good show in the format that many call his forte.
As far as Australia are concerned, it will be difficult to decide on the combination because of an influx of youngsters in recent times. But a couple of changes are surely on the cards.
With out-of-form Brad Haddin cut dead by the selectors for the series, Matthew Wade will take up the wicket-keeping duties. He has strengthened his case all the more following good performances in the T20 series.
Ryan Harris is sure to take his place back in the playing XI after an encouraging return in the last two Tests against India following a long injury lay-off .
When all is said and done, one would admit without any delay that this format is the Indian players' best bet to restore their good name. Not for nothing, they are the world champions. In the last 10 ODIs, they have won nine and that's a profound statistic. Even if they don't play like world champions, they will improve on their Test performance not a little.
And don't forget they won the triangular series the last time here in 2008 when they were clearly notches above England and the hosts. Sri Lanka are the third team this time and they are no pushovers, as everyone knows. But sometimes recalling glorious moments from the past do your confidence a lot of good. Let's hope it turns out to be the case for Team India.
Australia: Michael Clarke (captain), David Warner, Ricky Ponting, Peter Forrest, Daniel Christian, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Brett Lee, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc, Xavier Doherty, Clint McKay, Mitchell Marsh
India: MS Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma, Parthiv Patel, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan