For me, this is the start of preparations for the World Cup. India have played a lot of ODI matches in the last six months and every time questions have been asked about whether this has been the ideal preparation for the quadrennial showpiece. To me, the tri-series will be a scale on which India can judge their strengths and weaknesses. I have said earlier and will maintain that this is probably the best possible side to have been picked. There will always be debate about few players, but for me the selected group deserves their place in the side.
We saw the game the other day in Sydney and our batsmen will have to develop specific ways of scoring against Australia in Melbourne in the first game. It will not be a ‘hit-through-the-line’ scenario as it happens in India. The new ball will be very important, especially the two new balls in the first ten overs and the Indians must make sure that they don’t lose too many wickets upfront. They can take a leaf out of Sydney where, despite losing early wickets, England still managed to get a decent total on the board. India will need to keep in mind that on these tracks with the two new balls and new ODI rules they will get lot of runs if they keep their wickets intact.
The combination picks itself on its own with Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane opening and I would want Rohit Sharma to come in at number three. However, the real challenge will be the number seven slot. Ravindra Jadeja will be missing the tri-series and one has to wait and see who fits in. Will it be Axar Patel at number 7? Will that be a bit too high for him? Will Dhoni gamble with Axar at that number? If India play two spinners then will Stuart Binny be the number seven? Can he do the job of the 3rd seamer? The lower order batting will also be crucial in these conditions with none in the top six capable of bowling their full-quota of ten overs. It will be a puzzle Dhoni will need to solve. He is hugely experienced to realize that the lower order is crucial in these conditions.
England didn’t get enough runs on the board in the first match of the series but competed well. Both England and Australia will be tough to beat. Australia are playing in their own backyard and will be the most difficult to get the better of as they have very good balance in the side and are a good bowling unit.
India is a much better ODI side than in Tests and will prove tough to beat. Dhoni is back as captain in his favourite format. The team has many match-winners, and for them the key will be adjustment. India may have lost the Test series but they have the ammunition to win the tri-series.