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India eye revival, redemption in T20 series against Australia

January 25, 2016 14:10 IST

Indian captain MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli during practice session

IMAGE: Indian captain MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli during practice session. Photograph: BCCI

Outplayed in the ODIs, a faltering India will look to get the balance right as they eye redemption in a three-match Twenty20 series against Australia starting in Adelaide on Tuesday which also kicks off their build-up for the World T20 Championships in March-April. 

The Indian team was comprehensively beaten in the ODIs, losing the series 1-4 and the T20Is would be an opportunity for the side to pick some positivity from the so far disappointing tour. 

Both teams will also begin their run-in for the ICC tournament, particularly the Men in Blue who only have T20Is lined up before the big tournament begins.

The Indian team doesn't really play too many T20I matches. Since the addition of the format to the international schedule in 2006, they have only played 57 games, with 28 of them across five World T20 events in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Indian team celebrates a wicket in the ODI series against Australia

IMAGE: Indian team celebrates a wicket in the ODI series against Australia. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

As such, since December 2006, when the Men in Blue first played a T20I against South Africa, they have only featured in 29 bilateral matches. And their record outside the World T20 isn't particularly impressive, with 15 losses and 14 wins. 

These records won't really play heavily on the Indian team management as they prepare for this T20I series, but the conditions definitely will.

The just-concluded Big Bash League has been a high scoring encounter, much like the ODI series in the first leg of this trip, and the pitches are expected to be flat and have ample bounce for the batsmen to make merry. 

The difference in conditions from the World T20 in India won't really allow either side to judge their spin options, but they will be busy evaluating different permutations and combinations. 

For India, it will be about getting their team balance right, in particular their strength, batting. Ajinkya Rahane has been ruled out of this first T20I, as he hasn't sufficiently recovered from the split-webbing injury suffered in Canberra.

India's skipper MS Dhoni during a practice session

IMAGE: India's skipper MS Dhoni during a practice session. Photograph: BCCI

Even in his absence though, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be keen to get the batting line-up optimised from the word go.

The Indian skipper had lined up Rahane to open in the third T20I against South Africa that was washed out in Kolkata in October. 

But back then, Shikhar Dhawan's form was also under a cloud. The former's absence and the latter's runs in the ODI series mean that he will continue to open with Rohit Sharma in this series. 

Virat Kohli obviously picks himself at number three, and thereafter, Yuvraj Singh is primed to make his international return for the first time since the 2014 World T20 final in Bangladesh. 

Sydney's centurion Manish Pandey isn't part of the T20I squad, and as such Yuvraj, Suresh Raina and Dhoni are expected to form up nos. 4, 5 and 6, perhaps alternating as per the match situation.

Australian players celebrate the fall of an Indian wicket during the recent ODI series

IMAGE: Australian players celebrate the fall of an Indian wicket during the recent ODI series. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Meanwhile, for the first time in this contest against India, even Australia are unsure of what their playing eleven combination will be like. 

Aaron Finch takes over the captaincy reins from Steve Smith for the T20 format, and he will be hard-pressed to make some tough choices. 

Top of the list will be how to fit in Nathan Lyon, who the selectors here really want to make an impact, given the World T20 will be held in spin-friendly conditions. Leg-break bowler Cameron Boyce is the other spin option in the squad. 

Glenn Maxwell is unavailable for this first match of the series, on account of his injured hamstring, and player of the Big Bash this season, Chris Lynn is expected to slot into the eleven in his place, ahead of left-hand batsman Travis Head. 

Shane Watson also returns to the fold, and could toss up with Shaun Marsh for George Bailey's spot. The home fans will also be keenly watching right-arm pacer Andrew Tye, as Australia have been throwing young fast bowlers into the mix recently.

And it remains to be seen whether Shaun Tait will lead the hosts' attack, as he returns to the international scene after five years.

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