Australia will get their first real taste of action on Indian soil in 2017 when they take on a talented group of India 'A' players led by all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who will look to make a case for himself to be included in the India squad for the first Test. The three-day warm-up game at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai will act as a pre-cursor to the series opener in Pune, starting February 23. It will be a golden opportunity for some of India's fringe players to make a mark against a strong international side. While for the Australians it will be a chance for a final tune-up against spin.
Pandya has definitely become a key part of the Indian outfit in the shorter formats of the game but with India's heavy home schedule, has found it hard to get into the Test squad. Ravindra Jadeja has been India's go to man in home conditions and occupied the all-rounder's spot, however, a fast bowling all-rounder will be key for India in overseas tours and Pandya could be the player to take that spot.
The added responsibility of captaining a side against one of the top teams in international cricket will certainly be an acid test for the all-rounder. But will also help him mature.
"It will be good opportunity for all of us, specially me to perform and get the opportunity to play in the Test series, it will be a good opportunity for the youngsters as well, who are there to show what they have," Hardik told reporters.
"We are not treating it as a practice game, it's an opportunity for all of us to do something amazing and get recognised in the selectors eyes."
"I have played against Australia A. This will be an amazing experience. Australians, you all know how they are and how aggressive they are, it will be nice competition for all of us," he added.
Meanwhile, the likes of Gujarat batsman Priyank Panchal, who has had a phenomenal season backed up by a century against Bangladesh in the previous warm-up game, will have a chance to pit themselves against the likes of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
The home team has some other exciting young players such as the hard-hitting ex-India U-19 World Cup batsmen Rishabh Pant of Delhi and Ishan Kishan who were part of North and East Zones in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Inter-Zonals at the nearby Wankhede Stadium.
Both can keep wickets as well as bat flamboyantly but it's Jharkhand's Kishan, who led the country in the Junior World Cup last year in Bangladesh, who has been chosen as the wicket keeper for the game.
Then there are others like Mumbai's highly rated batsman Shreyas Iyer and his teammate Akhil Herwadkar, who is expected to open the innings with the in-form Panchal.
Iyer had scored over 1300 runs at one-down while guiding Mumbai to their 41st Ranji title last season but has had a dip in form this season, while Panchal, with a plus 1300 aggregate, led Gujarat to their maiden national crown this season.
For the visitors, this will be the only practice game and they would like to make full use of it with batsmen spending some quality time out in the middle and bowlers getting a taste of the conditions.
Australia: Steve Smith (Captain), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Stephen O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade
India 'A': Hardik Pandya (Captain), Akhil Herwadkar, Priyank Kirit Panchal, Shreyas Iyer, Ankit Bawne, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan (WK), Shahbaz Nadeem, Krishnappa Gowtham, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Ashok Dinda, Mohammed Siraj, Rahul Singh, Baba Indrajith.
(With PTI Inputs)