CHENNAI: With just a day left for the first ODI between India and Australia, the visitors have quite a lot to chew on, especially in terms of team combination for the big day. Apart from a batting rejig necessitated by the flaring up of Aaron Finch’s already-sore calf (Peter Handscomb has been flown in as replacement), the bowling department too could see a shake-up of sorts.
The Men from Down Under have generally been skewed towards a ‘four speedsters and one spinner’ set-up for ODIs. That Adam Zampa has been the lone representative of his kind in 12 of the 19 matches that Australia have played in the last year is evidence enough. But if the MA Chidambaram Stadium sports on Sunday a strip with possible purchase for spinners, that may put Ashton Agar’s name in the playing XI as a second tweaker.
“It all depends on the wicket,” remarked the left-arm orthodox bowler, while acknowledging Zampa’s status as the go-to spinner in this format. “He has bowled well in the IPL and previous tours. If the wicket permits, there may be a chance (that I might play).”
Agar’s claim to fame came during his Test debut in the 2013 Ashes series, courtesy his record- breaking 98 as a nine-down batsman at Trent Bridge, before he faded from the international scene. It took him four years to break that lull, returning with a tally of seven wickets from two Tests (average of 23.14) during Australia’s tour of Bangladesh.
“I was so happy to be back. I felt a lot more calm and comfortable. It’s amazing what four years of experience can do, and just a little bit of age,” remarked Agar. “I was pleased the way I performed. It was nice to finish on a high.”
Agar’s one-day travails, too, have trodden a similar path, with 2015 being the year when his two appearances (against England) happened. But a couple of recent events could snowball into a 50-over comeback for the lanky spinner. The first is Australia’s 103-run trouncing of the Board President’s XI at Chepauk on Tuesday, which saw Agar claim four scalps. The pitch offered help to spinners, a fact that might boost Agar’s chances of inclusion. The second happening that may tilt the scales in his favour is Shikhar Dhawan’s absence.
That leaves India with only one batting southpaw: Axar Patel. Considering that both Zampa and Agar spin the ball away from right-handers, it may act as yet another incentive for the think tank for fielding the duo. “It’s harder to play the ball that is spinning away,” agreed Agar. “And If I get a chance, we will try to bowl well together. We’ve planned well, and we’re ready to take on the right-handers.”
Finch out of 3 games
Australia opener Aaron Finch has been ruled out of the first three ODIs with a calf injury. Peter Handscomb (in pic) has been called in as replacement. “Finch is yet to recover from injury. He is out of the first three games. We have rushed in Handscomb because he is a quality player who has played in Chennai with the A team,” said a source.