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Opening puzzle solved, India focus on facing Australia

Opening puzzle solved, India focus on facing Australia
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With skipper Virat Kohli stepping in to resolve India’s opening puzzle, the formidable hosts will look to ensure that their enviable home run remains...

Mumbai : With skipper Virat Kohli stepping in to resolve India's opening puzzle, the formidable hosts will look to ensure that their enviable home run remains intact and to take revenge of their last ODI series defeat against Australia when the two teams clash in the first game of the three-match ODI series starting here on Tuesday.

Kohli said he has no hesitation coming down the order to ensure that KL Rahul's consistency and Shikhar Dhawan's experience are both accommodated in the Indian playing XI.

"...big possibility. I would be very happy to do so. Look I am not possessive about where I play. I am not insecure about where I bat," Kohli said.

"Being the captain of the team, it is my job to make sure that the next lot is also ready. A lot of the other people might not look at it that way, but your job as a captain is not only to look after the team right now, but also to prepare a team that you leave behind when you eventually pass it onto someone else," he added.

At a time when bilateral ODI series are fast losing relevance, the three-match rubber between two top teams could give a fresh lease of life to the format.

The high-voltage rivalries that fans enjoy will be back as Rohit Sharma's elegance will be pitted against enforcer David Warner while the Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith duel will resume in earnest.

India's hungry-for-wickets pace attack led by Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini is ready to test the Australians with subtle variations.

On the other hand, IPL's costliest foreign recruit Pat Cummins, the crafty Kane Richardson and the ever-dependable Mitchell Starc will leave no stone unturned to make life uncomfortable for Kohli and his men. Alex Carey's gutsy batting and faultless glove-work will face the challenge of Rishabh Pant's flair.

The young Marnus Labuschagne, easily the most exciting talent spreading his wings on the international cricket map with some stellar performances in the Test arena, would like to replicate his form in the shorter formats.

On current form, Rahul was miles ahead to partner Rohit Sharma at the top of the order but Dhawan has had a phenomenal record in white ball cricket against the Aussies.

In fact, in their last meeting in the ODI World Cup, it was Dhawan's superb hundred that paved the way for an easy victory for the Indians.

But that was a good seven months back and Dhawan, since then, endured a spate of injuries. He also lost form only to regain a bit of it by scoring a half-century in the final T20 against Sri Lanka.

During World Cup, till Dhawan was around, KL Rahul batted at No.4 as a stop-gap solution but Shreyas Iyer has made the slot his own with a string of good scores.

The Wankhede track is usually a belter and India will certainly not go with two wrist spinners considering the fate they met during the last home series in March, which India lost 2-3.

Kuldeep Yadav, who has a hat-trick against Australia, is likely to be preferred over Yuzvendra Chahal.

There is a strong possibility that this will be Kedar Jadhav's last ODI series for India unless the pint-sized Pune right-hander does something extra special.

With buzz being about his reluctance to bowl off-breaks in order to enhance his IPL career, a few good scores will be required to keep Ajinkya Rahane and Suryakumar Yadav out of equation when the Indian team for the ODI series in NZ is announced on January 19.

India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Rishabh Pant (Wicket-keeper), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami.

Australia: Aaron Finch (Captain), Alex Carey (Wicket-keeper), Patrick Cummins, Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschange, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner and Adam Zampa.

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