With the much-anticipated T20 International series between India and Australia starting on Wednesday, the tickets are selling fast in all three venues with the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in lead. More than 1,00,000 tickets have already been sold and the Australian media has estimated the number of spectators to rise up to 135,000. The opening T20I will be played at The Gabba, Brisbane, on Wednesday. However, the second T20I, to be played at world's largest cricket stadium MCG, is expected to welcome the highest number of spectators.
According to an analytical report published by cricket.com.au, up to 70,000 spectators are expected to come to the MCG for the Friday night's encounter. Around 30,000 are tipped for the opening match at the Gabba, while as many as 35,000 fans are projected for third T20I at the SCG on Sunday.
Under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, India are touring Australia for a lengthy tour, comprising three T20Is, four Tests and three ODIs.
The men-in-blue last toured Australia in 2016 for five ODIs and three T20Is. After losing the ODI series 1-4, MS Dhoni-led India registered a 3-0 clean sweep to end the tough tour on a high.
This time, Dhoni won't be along as he has been rested for the three-match T20I rubber. Earlier, he missed the T20I series against the West Indies, which India won 3-0 at home.
Despite coming from an unimpressive batting form, this isn't the end of the road for the former captain, who led India to the title in the inaugural edition of the ICC World T20 in 2007. While many fans and critics started to assume Dhoni has been dropped, current India skipper Virat Kohli cleared the air, saying he has been rested. According to Kohli, the step was taken to give youngsters a chance.
"I can assure you that he (Dhoni) is still a very integral part of this team and it was only about giving chance to others. The selector felt that in T20 format, Rishabh Pant can be given a chance, he (Dhoni) anyway plays ODIs for us regularly. It was about giving chances to a youngster and it has nothing to do with what people are thinking and I as a captain can certainly assure you that," Kohli said at a press conference.
Following three T20Is and a four-match Test series, the three-match ODI series will be played from January 12 to 18 in 2019. Dhoni is expected to make a comeback in the ODI challenge as India look to prepare for the upcoming ICC World Cup, to be hosted by England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.
Besides the absence of Dhoni, Australia will also miss their prominent batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner as they are currently serving a one-year ban given by Cricket Australia for their involvement in infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March this year.
Despite their absence, cricket-frenzy nation Australia is set to host a record numbers of crowds for exciting matches against India. The first T20I in Brisbane will be the first men's T20I in five and a half years. The T20I rubber is also important from the perspective of the next ICC World T20, which will be played in Australia in 2020.