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Hour of reckoning

Hour of reckoning
Highlights

It is the dawn of a new season and so will be the expectations of cricket fans from all over the country when the five-game One-Day International (ODI) series between India and Australia commences at Perth on Tuesday. In a way, this will be an emotion-ridden series for both teams considering that Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be playing his last series Down Under and also because the Australians are j

It is the dawn of a new season and so will be the expectations of cricket fans from all over the country when the five-game One-Day International (ODI) series between India and Australia commences at Perth on Tuesday. In a way, this will be an emotion-ridden series for both teams considering that Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be playing his last series Down Under and also because the Australians are just about regrouping themselves.

As things stand, the odds will be staked heavily against Dhoni’s boys. The Men in Blue were subject to a forgettable outing last time around after a humiliating exit from the World Cup and an equally disastrous Test series that followed. One may take recourse from the fact that things have changed in Australia with many seasoned campaigners calling it quits from international cricket.

But then the system is very vibrant in the country, thanks to the scientifically-evolved bench-strength that ensures that talent is readily available. The loss of a Michael Clarke or Mitchell Johnson is hardly felt because another fills the shoes to appropriate levels.

Against this backdrop, India may be running into some players for the first time but they should not get carried away because the successors are worth their weight in wicket-taking and run-getting abilities. The pace attack spearheaded by the likes of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood could still turn out to be the match-winner.

Moreover, they are fresh from successes against New Zealand and West Indies. It is ditto with the Indian camp that has recorded emphatic wins over world champions South Africa and Sri Lanka. Notwithstanding this positive frame, Dhoni would do well if he goads the boys into believing that the ensuing ODI and T20 series have ominous ramifications especially because India will be hosting the T20 World Cup two months from now.

And the shortest format could be devilishly tricky for every team. One bad day in office and it will be curtains on the dreams and aspirations. Testing the waters will be an important element for the selection committee. The injury to Mohammad Shami is likely to dent the team prospects because the West Bengal bowler could have revelled on the fast tracks in Australia.

His replacement Bhuvneshwar Kumar is notoriously erratic and there are a big number of untested elements in the ranks. From the Indian point of view, the series will be of particular importance to comeback men Yuvraj Singh and Ishant Sharma. A good showing from them would come as tonic ahead of the T20 extravaganza.

Meanwhile, Dhoni, who would be hoping to script a grand last hurrah on Australian soil, will be praying (like every Indian fan) that Virat Kohli will once again sparkle. Australia has been a happy hunting ground for Team India captain, who slammed an astounding four Test centuries last time around. Continuing the dominant form would be the best news for Indian cricketers and fans alike.

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