SYDNEY: The preparations for India’s Australia tour have been torn up and re-drawn hundreds of times over the last eight months, but the action is eventually underway with the first one-day International at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.
It was on the same venerable ground on March 13 when Australia last hosted international men’s cricket, with hosts crushing New Zealand by 71 runs to end a five-game losing streak in ODIs.
Read Also: Pakistani cricket team’s isolation behaviour has ‘significantly improved’: New Zealand govt
The 48,000 seats were vacant that day when the Covid-19 pandemic started to hit, but Australia’s relative performance in suppressing the virus means that up to half of them would be filled on Friday.
India’s team will be raring to come out of two weeks of quarantine, while Australia’s players will be reunited in two different groups to follow the bio-security protocols.
Virat Kohli’s visitors are the second-ranked ODI team in the world and will be looking to get into their rhythm in the three 50-plus and three Twenty20 matches that precede the four-game test series in the new year.
“It’s important to get a good start in the white-ball series,” said India Vice-Captain K.L. Rahul said that. “After a while, we’re playing for the country. We love coming here and playing tough cricket.”
After the first test, Skipper Kohli will return home to attend the birth of his first child.
India hasn’t played a one-day game since they lost a 3-0 series in New Zealand in February, but the players have had plenty of chances to sharpen their skills in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Wicket-keeper/batsman Rishabh Pant was left out of the ODI squad and Rohit Sharma would miss the two short format series with at least a hamstring problem.
Aaron Finch led Australia to a 2-1 victory in the series in England in September, and his side is expected to look pretty close to the all-important inclusion of former skipper Steve Smith, who missed the 50-plus match because of the concussion.
Smith and opener David Warner were both missing in the wake of the Newlands Ball-Tampering controversy when India lifted the ODI and Test Series on their last tour, but the two batsmen would be on the Australian side.
All-rounder Mitchell Marsh’s absence with an ankle injury could be an opening for uncoated youngsters Cameron Green and Will Pucovski, who have been in productive form with a bat in the Sheffield Shield.
Finch said that he thought the uncommon preparations would not have an effect on the Australian team, who would stand in a barefoot circle to remember the indigenous people of the country before the match.
“I think everyone’s on the same page about how we want to play one-day cricket and build some really good momentum,” he said to reporters on Thursday. “Everyone is really looking forward to coming out and playing for Australia.”