Australia start favourites even as India look to make use of game-time advantage

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Since the turn of the 21st century, India and Australia played 35 One Day Internationals, in which the former have come on the right side of the result only eight times. Australia won 26 matches, and one match was abandoned. India’s win/loss ratio against Australia in this period is 0.307, the second-best after England.

While this also has to do with the fact that Australia haven’t played ODIs against many teams as much as they have with England, India and New Zealand, it also tells how good Australia have been over the years. This year, however, despite their 24-match winning streak, India might sense an opportunity to achieve something historic. If not, at the least, they would want to put an end to that streak.

Going into the series, Australia are missing the services of Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen. Since October 29, 2017, the duo has taken 39.13 per cent of the wickets Australian bowlers have accounted for. In the absence of them and Tayla Vlaeminck – who is ruled out of the ODIs and the pink-ball Test – the hosts will be relying heavily on Ellyse Perry and the youngsters – Stella Campbell, Darcie Brown, Hannah Darlington, Maitlan Brown – to do the job with the ball.

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Judging by what happened in the warm-up fixture that Australia won by 36 runs, Darcie is likely to share the new ball with Perry. Campbell also made her case by taking three wickets in the same match. It will be intriguing to see if head coach Matthew Mott opts to play both the young pacers together.

The batting order is all but confirmed, with the top six picking themselves. Alyssa Healy is the leading run-scorer for them in the ongoing winning streak, followed by the rest of the batting order one after the other. Allrounders Annabel Sutherland and Tahlia McGrath add strength to that lower-order as well. With The Great Barrier Reef Arena hosting its first international fixture, both teams would want to take a look at the strip before finalising the balance of the playing eleven.

For the tourists, the biggest challenge lies in countering the Australian bowling attack. Shafali Verma showed glimpses of what she could do during the recent tour of England, but a big innings is due for her. Her partnership with Smriti Mandhana is going to be crucial in setting the tone of the innings. India’s last 100-plus opening stand came against West Indies in November 2019.

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Mandhana’s then opening partner and the star of The Hundred competition, Jemimah Rodrigues, might not find a place in the starting eleven for the first ODI. She did not take part in the warm-up fixture, and the reasons are unknown. If she doesn’t get a chance, which seems to be the case with Mithali Raj batting at number three, either Yastika Bhatia might play at four, or Harmanpreet Kaur could move one position up, followed by Deepti Sharma at five. Richa Ghosh, who kept the wickets in the warm-up fixture, could be in line for a debut in the format and is likely to don the gloves and bat at number six.

However, Kaur and Shikha Pandey did not play in the warm-up match and their fitness status is yet to be confirmed by the team management. If they miss out due to injury reasons, Rodrigues might get a nod in the middle-order, with pacer Meghna Singh taking Pandey’s place in the eleven. Either way, India are heavily dependent on Jhulan Goswami to do the bulk of the work with the new ball.

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Meanwhile, Sneh Rana and Pooja Vastrakar are likely to retain their place for their impressive performances during the England tour. Likewise, Poonam Yadav will be the lead spinner for the women in blue. Whether they will be able to restrict the full-strength Australian batting order is something one will have to wait and watch.

Though India do have match practice going into the multi-format series, their track record in the ODI format this year has not been great. They lost against South Africa (1-4) and England (1-2). With this being a three-match series, Mithali Raj and Co. would want to get a head start early against a possibly rusty hosts.

Can India put an end to the winning streak of Australian juggernaut in the first match come Tuesday?

Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Maitlan Brown, Stella Campbell, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Georgia Redmayne, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham

India: Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur (vc), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Yastika Bhatia, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Richa Ghosh (wk), Ekta Bisht.