Following a 0-2 series loss in T20 Internationals against Australia, India will look to put their best foot forward and fine-tune their game in their final One-day International assignment before the ICC World Cup 2019, starting on May 30 in the UK. The first ODI of the five-match series between India and Australia will be played in Hyderabad on Saturday. The challenge against Australia, who recently swept the two-match T20I series, will help India figure out a balance for the World Cup squad.
"Every team will look to fine-tune whatever they need to before the World Cup, and we'll keep doing that in the ODI series too, but we still want to win every match we play," skipper Virat Kohli said after the Bengaluru T20I loss, headlining his intention.
There will be at least four players for whom the series will be like a pre-test. KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar and Siddarth Kaul are fighting for two available slots in that UK bound 15-member squad. One man who will be keenly tracking the developments from the sidelines will be Dinesh Karthik, who still, many believe, has an outside chance of making it to the team.
However, for the quartet of Rahul, Pant, Shankar and Kaul, the coming five matches will be an acid test as and when they are inducted into the playing XI.
Rahul should be in a good head space after scores of 50 and 47 in the two T20 Internationals and is expected to get a few more chances at the top of the order.
The batsman is fighting for the reserve opener's slot and who knows if Shikhar Dhawan's indifferent form continues, the Mangalore man could well be a permanent fixture in the side.
All eyes will also be on Pant, who hasn't exactly been consistent in the shorter formats but such is his talent and ability to win matches singlehandedly that the team management may give him a few more matches before taking a final call.
For Vijay Shankar, his bowling doesn't exactly inspire confidence but Hardik Pandya's dodgy fitness will keep him in the race and he can still claim for a second all-rounder's slot if Pandya is the first choice.
Kaul is a rank outsider and could be a blind side entry as the reserve pacer as the team management's trial test with Khaleel Ahmed hasn't yielded the desired results.
With Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah being automatic choices, Kaul will probably get two games to prove his worth.
But Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri are not likely to tinker with the core team too much as a comprehensive series win is always an acceptable proposition.
With the seasoned Ambati Rayudu, veteran all-rounder Kedar Jadhav and the wily Shami back in the Indian set-up, the ODI series will be a completely different challenge for Aaron Finch and his men.
Also the formidable wrist spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will be operating in tandem during those middle overs to choke the run flow.
Add to it, Jadhav's side-arm low off-breaks and the likes of Glenn Maxwell, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis and Shaun Marsh may find it difficult to negotiate the overs. Bumrah, set to be India's premier bowler in England, may be rested for a game or two depending on India's position in the series.
The Australian team, buoyed by the maiden T20I triumph over India, will be eager to continue the momentum it has gained.
Nathan Lyon's presence will lend teeth to the spin department and he will partner Adam Zampa.
Andrew Tye, the late replacement for the injured Kane Richardson, will like to use all the variations learnt during his stints with various IPL franchises.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishabh Pant, Siddarth Kaul, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja
Australia: Aaron Finch (capt), D'Arcy Short, Shaun Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Usman Khawaja, Alex Carey, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa, Jason Behrendorff, Jhye Richardson, Pat Cummins, Andrew Tye, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Nathan Lyon
The match starts at 1:30 pm (IST).
(With PTI inputs)