India vs Australia: Series Wrap-up

Indian fans will be disappointed if they look at the results which read 0-2 in T20I series and 2-3 in the ODI series. But those who have seen the matches know that the best team prevailed in all the matches. Glenn Maxwell, Virat Kohli, Ashton Turner, Usman Khawaja, Pat Cummins and Jaspreet Bumrah performed at their very best when the situation was watertight. India didn't lose, rather it was Australia who won which bodes well for their World Cup campaign. Indian players will now take a few days off and will head to their respective franchises in the IPL which starts from 23rd March.

India vs Australia: Series Wrap-up India vs Australia: Series Wrap-up Source : PTI Photo

Test Cricket has seen a resurgence in the last couple of years. The pitches have been balanced, and many times bowling friendly which promote attacking gameplay both with the bat and the ball. Apart from a few draws, most of the matches produced results, many times inside three days or on the fourth day which makes for entertaining, fast moving cricket for the spectators as well.

The popularity of T20 cricket has only been on the rise since its advent and the large-scale franchise cricket leagues being played in all major Test playing nations. It was feared that ODI format which rests comfortably in the middle of the two formats-one is the pinnacle of the sport and a delight for the purists, other is like an instant gratification but it does bring the game new followers.

Besides the ICC Cricket World Cup, which is among the most followed tournaments in the world, bi-lateral ODI series are considered meaningless. But the ODI series played in India in the last five years have been competitive and produced some memorable nail-biters, both high scoring as well as low scoring matches like in the recently concluded series where one match saw 359 being chased by Australia and one match saw India defending 250 in the last over of the game. Most of the series have gone right down to the wire. The lack of dead rubbers, or more closely contested games has also seen capacity crowds in the stadium which speaks volume about the popularity that cricket enjoys in India at a time where the schedule is packed year-round.

India have no matches left before the World Cup and Virat Kohli has stated that IPL performances will have no bearing on World Cup selections. One player that has emerged in this series is Vijay Shankar. He has looked very solid with the bat and useful with the ball and on field he covers good ground with ease. It is safe to assume that he has sealed his place in the squad for the World Cup. If the incumbent batsman at 4 Ambati Rayudu fails to perform in the first couple matches in World Cup, we may very well see Shankar replacing him at 4 ahead of Rishabh Pant or KL Rahul. Kedar Jadhav has sealed his position at 6 in the playing XI, who adds tremendous value with the bat as a finisher and a handy bowling option to fill up the 5th bowler quota or on days when one of the four bowlers has a bad day.

Rishabh Pant too will be on the plane as the deputy to MS Dhoni, but he did not play any innings of significance nor was his performance behind the wicket convincing enough to cement his spot in the playing XI. KL Rahul will be the back-up opener, while Jadeja did enough with the ball but his batting in white ball cricket is still nowhere close to what he is capable of. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzavendra Chahal will be India's premier spinners while Jaspreet Bumrah, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami will be the three main quicks. Hardik Pandya will be the all-rounder and fourth seamer at the World Cup. He will slot in at straight at 7 barring any injury that ruled him out of the ODI series against Australia.

Australia entered this series with many questions and doubts but they leave this series with confidence, with most of their questions answered and doubts cleared. One thing is certain that the defending champions will enter the World Cup as third favorites. The selectors are confronted with quite a few headaches as the imminent return of Steve Smith and David Warner has to be taken into consideration.

Aaron Finch being the captain is the first name on the squad. Usman Khawaja was already Australia's leading batsman in white ball cricket, and his series winning performance against India has solidified his spot as the opener or one down. He has pushed Shaun Marsh out who had a string of low scores in the series. Before that, he was Australia's most prolific batsman in ODI cricket. Leading up to this series, Marsh had scored 640 runs in 10 innings at an average of 64 with 4 hundreds and a fifty. In the worst time for Australian batsmen, he emerged as the saving grace. Now, if even one of Steve Smith or David Warner has a good IPL or show signs of form, it will be Shaun Marsh who will lose his spot in the playing XI. But he will be on the plane with the squad though, as a reserve batsman.

Unlike Usman Khawaja, who was going through a bad patch of form, Peter Handscomb entered the series in decent form. He kept wickets in T20 series but played as a batsman in the ODIs. Alex Carey's glovework in the series was flawless and with two spinners in the team in Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon, who have also established themselves as Australia's leading spinners for the World Cup, Carey's superior keeping will ensure his place in the side as errors behind the wicket can prove to be costly, like it happened during the fourth ODI where Pant's misjudgment probably cost India the match. Peter Handscomb's solid batting against spin and his ability to maneuver the ball into the gaps in the middle overs makes him ideal at 4 or 5. 

Ashton Turner won the fourth ODI for Australia and announced himself as the ‘finisher'. His natural tall stature affords him a long reach which he uses with great effect against the spinners to reach the pitch or smother the spin. He showed excellent judgement at strike rotation as well the ability to clear the boundaries when required. In the upcoming series against Pakistan on similar low and slow surfaces of UAE, all eyes will be on Ashton Turner whether he can replicate what he did against India at Mohali. The competition for spots is cut throat and it may come down to playing either one of Stoinis or Turner if Steve Smith finds some form and start bowling his leggies again.

Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis were certainties before this series, and Maxwell winning the T20 series single-handedly for Australia has put all doubts away regarding his form or position. Stoinis hasn't had the best of series, but he has been largely consistent, and being promoted as a big match player who has the heart and courage to stand up in pressure situations as he done that a few times in his short international career.

With Australia shaping up as a formidable force, they have trumped New Zealand to fourth spot and ascended themselves as third favorites, after England and India, obviously-the two most successful teams since the last World Cup. South Africa beat Australia in Australia last summer and now they have won the ODI series against Sri Lanka leading them 4-0 with one match still to play after losing both the Tests against a very inexperienced team. South Africa boasts of arguably world's best bowling attack which reads Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir and Andile Phelklukwayo. Anrich Nortje and Tabrez Shamsi are their back-up bowlers. Their batting looks thin after the retirement of AB De Villiers. It rests on the shoulders of captain Faf Du Plessis, Quinton De Kock who has again scored 5 back to back fifty plus scores in ODIs, Hashim Amla and David Miller, who haven't been consistent.

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