It is as it never was. But in recent times, and especially in the subcontinent, as it always was. Australia are in danger of losing a series well before its end and their players, by their own admission, seem no closer to solving the issues plaguing them. The remarkable thing is that in each of their matches, including the T20I in Ranchi where they were 49 for 1 after the Powerplay, their initial position was one of considerable strength.
Virat Kohli, after scalping the rain-hit first T20I, expressed surprise at having to work hard to chase 48 runs in six overs when his bowlers had kept the opposition to 118 in 18.4. If Australia’s middle order had batted more carefully, the DLS equation might have asked more of India, who like to build in the early part of their batting innings.
Such thoughts can be frustrating just as easily as they can be comforting. “We’re just one step away, lads” David Warner might say to his troops at their team meeting in Guwahati. “Tell us what we need to do, skip,” they might reply. “If I knew that, we wouldn’t be losing, would we?” That line has been used more than once in the time the Australians have been in India. Mostly in jest, but perhaps also to prevent airing their weaknesses to the global community, which often tends to include opposition batsmen, bowlers, captains and coaches.
India, on the other hand, have dominated all departments. Their newer players have accepted important roles and thrived. While that is cause for celebration, a lot of their success recently has come at home and Kohli himself said, after the Bangalore ODI, that they can’t consider themselves world beaters until they do just as well abroad.
In the spotlight
If there is one Australian cricketer who has enhanced his reputation during the course of this tour, it is Marcus Stoinis. He looked out of place against spin in the first ODI, but since then has handled the threat quite competently. That he bowled an average of seven overs per game in the ODI series was a sign of his improvement as an allrounder. He was unable to play the Ranchi game, despite being named as a replacement for the injured Steven Smith, because he was back home at the time. But he has joined the squad now and is all but certain to play in Guwahati.
He wasn’t at the crease for a long time in Ranchi, but after a little layoff Shikhar Dhawan would have enjoyed it nonetheless. Of course, he would have preferred the opportunity to face more than 12 balls and that may well come his way on Tuesday, with the series on the line.
India don’t really have much cause to fiddle with their team, unless there are last-minute injuries or thoughts of experimentation.
India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Glenn Maxwell, as explosive as he is, hasn’t been solid enough to make that matter. He was dropped in the ODI series for that mistake and he may well suffer the same now.
Australia (probable) 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Travis Head, 4 Moises Henriques/Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Dan Christian, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Adam Zampa/ Andrew Tye, 10 Kane Richardson, 11 Jason Behrendorff
Pitch and conditions
The new Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati will host its first international match, although the city has already hosted international cricket before – from as early as 1983.
Stats and trivia
Kohli averages 54 in T20Is, and if he lives up to those numbers, he will comfortably pass Tillakaratne Dilshan and become the second-highest scorer in the format in international cricket.
Since the last of his 12 fifties for Australia in March 2016, Warner averages 16.5 with four single-digit scores in eight innings.
“It’s a nice ground, the wicket looks fantastic. The first game being played here; it’s going to be a special one for both teams. Hopefully we can get across the line and get that first victory here.”
Australia captain David Warner