Melbourne, Jan 28: High on confidence after winning the first Twenty20 International, India will look to press home the advantage and seal off the 3-match series when they take on Australia in the second T20I here tomorrow (January 29).
Having won the first of the three-T20I series by 37 runs to take a 1-0 lead, India find themselves ahead of the hosts for the first time on this tour, a position of confidence that they didn't enjoy for the duration of the ODI series. (Smith reacts to send-off from Kohli)
The 'Men in Blue' would be keen to close the series out early, so that they get a chance to experiment in the last match in Sydney. (Pandya sanctioned by ICC)
However, that will be an after-thought at best, if at all. Right now, the Indian team management would want to keep this turn in fortunes going.
Winning the last ODI in Sydney provided some relief to the beleaguered travellers, and then the win in the previous match in Adelaide has given their last week on tour some impetus.
Hitting the right balance for the playing eleven has been the concern for the Indian team. They tried doing so earlier in the series, bringing in Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Rishi Dhawan, and leaving out the additional spinner. (Fired up Kohli gives send-off to Smith)
Two spinners in the team hadn't provided captain MS Dhoni the control he needed in the middle overs, and though that change in selection didn't bring about the desired results, the youngsters impressed enough to stay on for the T20Is.
Perhaps it provided the basis for the management to understand where their strength lies, and thus, when Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina joined the ranks for T20Is, there was no hesitancy in picking them for the Adelaide game straightaway. (Kohli scales another high)
Picking the duo allowed Dhoni the freedom to choose his bowling attack as per both experience and requirements, devoid of the baggage of the ODI series.
Ravichandran Ashwin duly returned to the side, and along with Ravindra Jadeja, gave a precursor of things to come in the sub-continent in the next two months.
And with Jasprit Bumrah impressing on debut, it gave the management further confidence to draft in Hardik Pandya as well, banking on extra overs that Yuvraj-Raina could bowl if need be.
Thus, it will take a major upheaval in their plans, or even a freak injury in the build-up to tomorrow's game for India to break away from this combination.
With their bowling problems looking sorted at the moment, the batting order picks itself, given that Ajinkya Rahane is not yet back to full fitness.
The Mumbai batsman only took light throw downs in the nets near the end of the session. Thus, Dhoni would not be able to fit him in the eleven immediately.
The skipper had happily accepted a problem of plenty post the Adelaide win, but failed to specify just how he intended to sort this one. Given that he is expected to go in with the same eleven, the onus thus lies on Yuvraj and Raina to make sure he doesn't need to.
Raina looked rusty in his 34-ball 41-run knock at the Adelaide Oval, and it was only Virat Kohli's efforts that didn't allow pressure to shift back to the Indian batting in the last 10 overs.
Raina did well enough to play a supporting role, but more is expected of the current Indian middle order. Dhoni usually follows a left-right combination in his batting line-up during T20Is, and if Raina got a chance in the previous game, he could entertain thoughts of sending Yuvraj ahead this time around, if the match situation allows.
It is imperative for the Punjab all-rounder to get some proper game-time under his belt, never mind fielding for 20 overs (and bowling one of them) in the previous match. This is the take-away India will be hoping for, in the backdrop of aiming for an early series win.
Meanwhile, Australia are under pressure, perhaps for the first time this summer. They have engaged with New Zealand and West Indies prior to this series, in different formats, but won against them without breaking any sweat.
Even the ODIs seemed like a walk in the park for them, despite the close finishes in a couple matches. As compared to Tests and ODIs though, there is strangeness towards T20s when it comes to the Australian side, almost as if this is a burden for them.
Perhaps these bilateral contests do not excite them enough, and as such they are not able to zero down on the best combinations and suffer in World T20s as a result.
For a team that is constantly on top of the charts in the five-day format, and has won five ODI World Cups, this could be one of the few plausible reasons for their poor T20I record.
And once again, their attention is diverted towards the tour of New Zealand post this contest, and the World T20 comes about only as an after-thought.
Australia will certainly be boosted by the availability of Glenn Maxwell, but skipper Aaron Finch has bigger problems in his hands.
Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Chris Lynn, James Faulkner, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), Nathan Lyon, Cameron Boyce, Travis Head, John Hastings, Scott Boland, Kane Richardson, Andrew Tye, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Hardik Pandya, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Rishi Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane.
Match starts at 2.08 PM IST
3rd and final T20I in Sydney on January 31 (Sunday) - 2.08 PM IST