In preparation for the upcoming World Cup, India embarks on their three-match ODI series against the formidable Australian team at Mohali's Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium this Friday.
This series serves as the final dress rehearsal before the ICC World Cup 2023 for the Indian squad, who have opted to rest their star players, putting the spotlight on the team's depth.
Iyer and Yadav's Critical Test
Among those under scrutiny are Shreyas Iyer, battling to regain match fitness after a prolonged absence due to stress fracture surgery, and Suryakumar Yadav, determined to shake off a string of lackluster performances in recent ODIs.
Both Mumbai-based batsmen find themselves in unique battles to secure their spots in the World Cup squad.
Iyer's Fitness Challenge
Shreyas Iyer's limited cricketing action over the past six months due to injury, compounded by a recent back stiffness concern before an Asia Cup clash against Pakistan, has raised doubts about his readiness.
Nevertheless, India will look to Iyer's prowess as a spin-slaying middle-order batsman in the upcoming World Cup.
Suryakumar Yadav faces the need to define his role in ODI cricket clearly. While he may not be a starting player in the World Cup XI, establishing his worth to the team management is crucial, especially with competition from the promising Tilak Varma.
Ashwin's Unexpected Opportunity
The absence of left-arm spinner Axar Patel has unexpectedly opened a door for the 37-year-old Ravichandran Ashwin to potentially participate in his third, and possibly final, 50-over World Cup.
This development has pitted the seasoned Ashwin against his younger counterpart, Washington Sundar, in a fierce competition for a spot on the squad.
With the notable absence of Kuldeep Yadav and Hardik Pandya, both Ashwin and Washington have a golden opportunity to showcase their abilities and contribute to the team.
Opening Pair and Fast Bowler Workload
The opening pair for India will consist of Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill, with Shreyas Iyer following in the batting order.
India, notably, has not rested any of its fast bowlers. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj may feature in two of the three games, considering the compact schedule involving three 50-over matches in just five days, which also includes travel.
The management's primary concern is the careful management of the workload for these two pacers.
Australia's Quality Despite Recent Loss
Despite a recent series loss to South Africa and concerns over skipper Pat Cummins' injury, Australia's performance has been marked by quality.
Having previously secured a series victory in India in March, Australia remains one of the few international teams with a successful track record in subcontinental ODIs.
This series serves as ideal preparation for both countries as they gear up for a marquee event, with a rematch scheduled for October 8th. (With inputs from agencies)