One-day cricket returns to the city after a gap of eight years and though the venue of the clash — the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium situated at Gahunge on the Mumbai-Pune highway — may inconvenience those fans, who do not have access to private vehicles, the picturesque setting is pleasant enough to revive their mood the moment they are seated in the arena.
As fate would have it, India were a team in transition the last time a game was held here: they beat Sri Lanka during the early stages of then coach Greg Chappell’s experiments in the run up to the 2007 World Cup. The story seems to be unfolding on similar lines today as the world champions get used to life without the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, and a struggling Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.
Youngsters to the fore
The youngsters, who have replaced them over the past few months have proved their mettle commendably, but these are still early days to judge whether they have done enough to cement the spots they are laying claim to. That is where the seven-ODI India-Australia series gains importance.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have already given Sehwag and Gambhir sleepless nights, so much so that the former has written to the BCCI to try him out in the middle order. Similar is the case with paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar whose top-notch performances have left Zaheer on the sidelines.
The current series will provide ample opportunities for the trio to enhance their reputation against an opponent who have rarely fared badly in ODIs on Indian soil. Yuvraj Singh, who unlike the other seniors who are trying to make a comeback played a brilliant knock in the one-off T20 on Thursday in Rajkot and he too will be keen to make a statement in this series.
The left hander did not turn up for practice yesterday leaving everyone wondering if something was amiss. But skipper MS Dhoni insisted the nets-session was optional and Yuvraj had opted to stay back at the hotel and undertake a session at the gym. “There is nothing to worry about. We had an optional training session, and Yuvi stayed back at the hotel,” said Dhoni.
Although India have played one T20 at this venue (against England) and a few IPL T20 games too have been staged here, Dhoni was not sure about the nature of the track that’s likely to be on offer. “As of now the track seems two-paced. There are patches of grass, so some balls could bounce sharply if they land on them, while the others could stay low. But we need to see how things are placed tomorrow,” he said.
Although India start favourites on paper, Dhoni & Co have chosen to tread cautiously. “If you see Australia's team composition, they have many players who can bat as well as bowl. That means they bat deep down the order. As a result our bowlers have to ensure that they maintain a disciplined line,” said Dhoni.
The Aussies meanwhile, are fighting to reclaim the number one spot in the ICC rankings —they need to win this series 6-1 to get there — are not looking very far ahead. Their skipper George Bailey said he would like to take it one match at a time since this is a long series. “To think that we would win 6-1 is fanciful, especially given that fact that we are playing India. I would rather focus on winning one match at a time,” he said.