Battered India hoping for turnaround in T20 opener
Their reputation bruised and battered after the humiliating loss in the Test series, India are desperate to turn their fortunes around and restore some pride in the limited-overs matches, which get underway with the first T20 against Australia in Sydney on Wednesday.
The Indians slumped to their lowest ebb in the longer version of the game last week, when Australia mauled them 4-0 in the Test series.
The drubbing was also the current ODI World champion team's eighth straight overseas Test defeat following the series loss by an identical margin in England last year.
Fresh legs bring hope
But with some fresh legs, in Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Parthiv Patel, Ravidra Jadeja and Rahul Sharma, joining the team for the limited-overs matches, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is hoping lady luck will smile on him in the first of two T20 matches on Wednesday, ahead of the tri-series that also involves hosts Australia and Sri Lanka.
With the famed batting line-up failing miserably in the Test series, there is a scramble for early berths in the opening Twenty20 match at the ANZ Stadium.
Rohit Sharma expects to get a match
The opening duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir failed to give India a good start in the Test series. To add to it, skipper Dhoni looked a pale shadow of his former self with the bat as well as his leadership qualities.
But though there is little threat to their positions in the playing eleven as of now, the trio know that it is high time they perform or make away for youngsters like Manoj Tiwary and Parthiv Patel, who are waiting in the wings.
Talented Rohit Sharma is, at last, expected to get a match after spending the entire Test series on the sidelines. Apart from him, the middle-order will have Raina, Virat Kohli, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, who will play the role of all-rounder.
Zaheer leads pace attack
India's bowling department will be led by Zaheer Khan. He is expected to have Umesh Yadav and Praveen Kumar for company, even as left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan stands an outside chance of making the team because of his batting abilities and experience of playing in Australian conditions.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is expected to spearhead the spin department in Jadeja's company.
Faulkner is an unknown entity
But, all said and done, one thing that stands against India is their record in the T20 format.
India lost three straight games in the super league stage of the two consecutive T20 World Cups in England and in the West Indies in 2009-10 and young batsmen were exposed big time against the short-pitched deliveries.
The Indians, despite having a galaxy of batting stars in their ranks, were all out on most occasions. But, thankfully, for them, the present Australia T20 squad, under George Bailey, does not have menacing fast bowlers. There is neither Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus nor Ryan Harris in the team. The only one with credentials is veteran Brett Lee, who has long retired from Test cricket.
But young James Faulkner is an unknown entity and is said to be a good left-arm fast bowling all-rounder of Tasmania.
Still, Daniel Christian is highly spoken of and Clint McKay has had a few impressive performances in the recent Big Bash League (BBL).
Marsh will possibly get one last opportunity
Australia's biggest advantage going into Wednesday's match is that most of their players can take on dual roles.
Out-of-form Shaun Marsh will possibly get one last opportunity to show some spark after repeated failures in the Test series, which led to his omission from Australia's ODI team.
Shaun's brother, the big-hitting Mitchell Marsh, is also expected to play and will provide Bailey with an all-round option.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel, Rahul Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja and Manoj Tiwary.
Australia: George Bailey (capt), David Warner, Travis Birt, Daniel Christian, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, David Hussey, Brett Lee, Clint McKay, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Matthew Wade and Brad Hogg.
The match starts at 1405 IST