India-Australia first Twenty20 International begins at Vizag Sunday

Chennai: After a successful tour Down Under in which India tasted success barring the T20 series against New Zealand, India returns in action at home this time against the touring Australians with the first T20I scheduled at the Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy Stadium in Visakhapatnam tomorrow.

The seven-match series comprising two T20 Internationals and five ODIs against a struggling Australian side will be India’s last international assignment before the World Cup starting 30 May in England and Wales.

After facing a drubbing in the Test, ODI and T20 series against India, Australia is back after a 2-0 Test victory over Sri Lanka and will look to carry forward the winning momentum during this tour.

The white-ball series is the first of three Australia will play away from home to find some form and fine-tune selections for the ICC Cricket World Cup which begins late May.

For the hosts, the upcoming series is the final dress rehearsal before the all-important World Cup and with still a few spots to fill, this is an important series for the World Cup hopefuls.

Skipper Kohli is back after a well-deserved, three-week break and will be keeping a keen eye on the likes of Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar, two players who are strongly tipped to make the elite list.

Having edged out Dinesh Karthik from the ODI side in the race to the World Cup, Pant will get a few more chances to make a strong case for himself.

Ahead of the series, the Indian team was dealt a major blow with all-rounder Hardik Pandya being ruled out of both the T20Is and ODIs. This provides an opportunity for Vijay Shankar to make his case even stronger.

Also back in India’s 15-member squad will be Rishabh Pant and K L Rahul. Chinaman spinner Kuldeep Yadav has been given much needed rest and filling his shoes will be young spinner Mayank Markande.

No one other than Dinesh Karthik will be more keen to make a statement as these two games will effectively be his last chance as he has already been dropped from the ODIs against Australia. The Tamilnadu veteran drew a lot of flak after he refused a single when Krunal Pandya was on the rampage at the other end in the series-deciding T20 game against New Zealand which India lost by 4 runs.

AUSTRALIAN SIDE

Australia, too, faced a blow with Mitchell Starc being ruled out of the series after an injury. Peter Siddle and Billy Stanlake are the other two players missing from the line-up. Kane Richardson has been recalled while Shaun Marsh, expecting the birth of his second child and also recovering from a hamstring injury, will join the team from the third ODI. D’Arcy Short returns to the ODI squad as cover for Shaun Marsh while Nathan Coulter-Nile has also been included.

The Aaron Finch-led side may not have played T20Is since their last series against India three months back, but they are fresh from their extended Big Bash League with six players including the skipper featuring in the all-Melbourne final 17 February.

Player of the Tournament D’Arcy Short played 15 BBL games this season for Hobart Hurricanes scoring 637 runs at 53.08 average (140.61 strike rate). He was followed by competition leading wicket-taker Kane Richardson who topped the bowling aggregate with 24 at 17.70 (economy rate 7.75). The dynamic left-handed opener Short will look to correct his stats on the turning pitches and re-launch his career giving them a good start.

NT Bureau