RAJKOT: Even as they are eying a maiden clean sweep against Australia in the third and final ODI at the SCA Stadium on Wednesday, India have been forced to rest a few more of their key players keeping the upcoming World Cup in mind.
On Tuesday, it emerged that allrounder Hardik Pandya – who was supposed to join the team for this match – and pacer Mohammed Shami too would miss this third and largely inconsequential ODI, along with opener Shubman Gill and allrounder Shardul Thakur. Sources said all four have been “given a break” to keep them fresh for the World Cup.
India captain Rohit Sharma and star batter Virat Kohli will be returning just in time to whitewash their old foes. In March this year, Australia had beaten India 2-1 in an ODI series, but the shoe is well and truly in the other foot this time.
The visitors, who have traditionally done well in ODIs in India, have looked listless, appearing to be just going through the motions, perhaps saving their best for the World Cup. Their 99-run defeat in the second ODI in Indore was their fifth loss in this format in a row.
What has been heartening to notice is that India have outplayed Australia despite their rotation policy being in full force – Rohit, Virat, Pandya and lead spinner Kuldeep Yadav missed the first two ODIs and Axar Patel skipped the whole series because of injury.
The visitors would be mighty relieved that India have rested Gill, who cracked scores of 74 and 104 in the first two games.
With Rohit, Kohli, Kuldeep and Jasprit Bumrah returning for this game, and KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer firing on all cylinders, the hosts still bear a formidable look.
Hoping to salvage some pride, the Aussies would want their gun fast bowling pair of skipper Pat Cummins, who chose to rest himself in the last game, and Mitchell Starc, yet to play a game in this series, and Glenn Maxwell to return for this game. Starc’s in-swinging yorkers have always been a pain for India’s batters.
Badly missing the firepower of Travis Head at the top, Australia will again bank on their middle-order batting pillars of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.