The big news that came out of the selectors’ meeting at Chennai was the return of Yuvraj Singh to the Indian limited overs squad for the twenty20 and the first three one-dayers.
While it was not entirely unexpected, given Yuvraj’s form after coming back from the fitness stint in France as he scored 389 runs in 6 matches, the five wise-men have been rather cautious in gifting a comeback to the old-guards as form and fitness has been their major criteria for selection.
Four changes were made to the squad that won the Champions Trophy in England with Yuvraj Singh, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami and Jayadev Unadkat coming in place of Murali Vijay, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan and Umesh Yadav. The rest of the squad picked itself based on good performances in the Champions Trophy and the tri-series in West Indies.
One of the major reasons for India’s recent success has been the strong showing of the opening pair, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. Rohit has seamlessly translated into his new role as an opener, while Dhawan has been a revelation. They are expected to continue their good run and give the stroke-players in the middle-order an ideal platform to launch from.
The middle-order comprising of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja is one of the strongest in the world, and Yuvraj’s return gives a big boost to an already strong middle-order. He was India’s biggest match-winner in the last decade, and a fit-again Yuvraj will walk into any limited overs side in the world.
He replaced Murali Vijay, who has found it rather difficult to translate his test form into the ODIs. He has failed to find the right tempo required for a one-day game, either going too slow or going slam-bang and getting out.
Rayudu will want to prove his merit in the side against a quality opposition and with 7 matches scheduled he should certainly be given a chance. He is also in the squad as a back-up wicket-keeper for captain Dhoni in the place of the dropped Dinesh Karthick.
With not much pace and bounce in the Indian pitches and no real spin threat in the Australian bowling line-up, the Indian batters are expected to provide fireworks on the field during this festive season. If there is one thing they should improve on, it is their finishing skills as they cannot be reliant on their captain always to get it done for them.
Ravindra Jadeja occupies the all-rounder’s slot and has been excellent at that so far. He had a rather poor Champions League, but that is expected in T20 cricket and he has to put that behind him now. With Yuvraj in the squad now, Dhoni has the additional option of using him too as an all-rounder.
The spin department too is well taken care of by R. Ashwin and Jadeja, and these two men played a crucial role in the Champions Trophy triumph. With spin-friendly pitches and a batting line-up which is expected to struggle against quality spin bowling – very much now in the absence of their captain Michael Clarke – the Indian spinners would be itching to have a bowl.
The death bowling has been a major worry for the Indians. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has really come of age and he is expected to pick-up wickets with the new-ball. But Dhoni tends to finish his quota off soon and not use him in the slog overs. Seeing how he has bowled in the IPL, it would not be such a bad idea to try Kumar in the death overs.
The other pacer, Ishant has to be consistent and prove his merit in the side. He often tends to blow hot and cold in the same match and it is high time he rectified that.
Now that Umesh Yadav is dropped, it will be interesting to see whom Dhoni picks to partner Kumar and Ishant. If he goes with either of Unadkat or Vinay, both of whom are medium-pace at best, he would be having problems handling them at the end overs. Shami too is not express pace and he has struggled when the batsmen come after him.
Will Amit Mishra get a look at in a side having Ashwin, Jadeja, along with part-time options of Yuvraj, and Raina?
Dhoni could also take the other option of fielding only two pacers and play three spinners with Amit Mishra partnering Ashwin and Jadeja. Knowing Dhoni, it will not be surprise if he opts for this combination and with Mishra coming off an excellent series against Zimbabwe, where he picked up 18 wickets in the 5 matches, he should be given a go at the Aussies at some point in this series.
The major concern remains India’s death bowling and Dhoni, if he cannot completely sort it out, will be hoping that his bowlers do not let the Aussie batting line-up go that far.