Come January 12, Australia will be facing arguably their toughest ODI series in recent times when they take on India at home. While home advantage is with the Aussies, they do have a much weaker side to play with. (Ashwin, Hazlewood to Spearhead Attacks)
With big names like Shane Watson (dropped) and Mitchell Starc (injured) missing out, it will be a new-look Australian outfit which will face the Men in Blue. So as far as skipper Steve Smith is concerned, this is the acid test for the world champions.
With David Warner unlikely to be around for the full series as he may go on a paternity leave midway, the batting will depend more on the likes of captain Smith and Glenn Maxwell. Starc's injury and Mitchell Johnson's retirement leaves Josh Hazlewood to shoulder the bowling attack. Uncapped Joel Paris and Scott Boland shall have a chance to prove their mettle at the top level. (Kohli Smith Look to Hog Batting Spotlight)
This Aussie team is nowhere close to the one that lifted the World Cup last year, however it may be a blessing in disguise for the hosts. A good performance against a full-strength Indian side can do wonders to their confidence.
Depleted they may be, but the Australian team is by no means a pushover. The likes of Aaron Finch, Maxwell, Smith and Mitchell Marsh can be devastating with the willow against the Indian bowlers. This could also be Hazlewood's moment of reckoning as he leads an inexperienced bowling unit against arguably the best batting line-up in the world. (Top-10 ODI Contests Between Australia and India)
So it's make or break for the Aussies. The current team is clearly the benchmark for the future and a series win over the second-best team in the world could go a long way in establishing that.
Will Australia's new faces make use of this opportunity? Or will they crumble under pressure in front of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men. Come what may, there is no doubt that this is baptism by fire for most of the Aussie players. It remains to be seen if they can take it as a challenge or fail in the face of adversity. (Can Dhoni Slavage Pride Down Under, One Last Time?)