With home advantage and a team that's almost full-strength, India will look to set the tone for the series against Australia in the first Twenty20 International in Visakhapatnam on Sunday, 24 February.
India v Australia
ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, Visakhapatnam
Sunday, 23 February; 7:00pm local, 01:30pm GMT
Hardik Pandya has been ruled out of the upcoming limited-overs series against Australia, with Ravindra Jadeja named as his replacement in the ODI squad.— ICC (@ICC) February 21, 2019
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With Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah back in the limited-overs fray, India will back themselves to be dominant in the two-match T20I series. Even in the absence of the two, India performed considerably well in the T20I series in New Zealand, losing a closely-fought series 2-1.
In Australia before that, they drew a three-match series 1-1 draw. India have been a touch vulnerable overseas, keep in mind, but at home they've developed into an unstoppable force. In fact, since October 2015, they haven't lost a bilateral series at home, and their last two series wins, against Sri Lanka and the Windies, have been clean-sweeps.
Australia last played T20Is in India in late 2017, where they did well to draw 1-1. Then, of course, they had David Warner in the side, who is currently serving a ban for ball-tampering, along with Steve Smith.
Australia still have plenty of batting talent. Aaron Finch, the captain, Glenn Maxwell, D'Arcy Short and Marcus Stoinis are all clean strikers of the ball. To complement their attacking style with a more measured approach are the likes of Peter Handscomb and Usman Khawaja. But consistency will be the key as will their ability to play spin on drier wickets.
Most teams have struggled against India's wrist-spinners off late, regardless of conditions, and in India that threat will loom even larger. Australia will have noted the absence of Kuldeep Yadav, who has been rested for this series, but they still will have to contend with Yuzvendra Chahal, and potentially, the uncapped Mayank Markande, who did very well in his first IPL last year. Krunal Pandya, the left-arm spinning all-rounder, will present challenges off his own.
But it's not just spin India will rely on. Bumrah's return is key, and Australia will be amply aware of the threat he poses with those crafty variations and high pace. Umesh Yadav is back in the side, and will bring plenty of pace, while Siddarth Kaul can be a handful in the shortest format as well.
India's batting line-up is glittered with high-profile names. Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni can all take matches away from the opposition. Kohli will be rejuvenated after his break, and will look to resume regular service, while KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik and the young Rishabh Pant will all want to impress, with an eye on the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.
India's batting depth has taken a hit after star all-rounder Hardik Pandya was withdrawn from the series with a lower back problem. However, Vijay Shankar has performed very well recently, and this will be another opportunity for him to strengthen his reputation. Hardik's elder brother Krunal too is a clean-hitting batsman and will serve to add depth.
In short, Australia's young bowling attack will have their task cut out. Pat Cummins will lead the charge, and will have the impressive Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Kane Richardson and Nathan Coulter-Nile for support. Australia will hope for their wrist-spinner Adam Zampa comes to party as well.
Jasprit Bumrah (India): The right-arm paceman is a force to reckon with across formats, but his rise to prominence was through his T20 game, and he will be looking to display his full set of variations on his return after a period of rest. He averages 20.47 in the T20Is, and concedes runs at less than seven an over.
Adam Zampa (Australia): The leg-spinner is key to Australia's hopes of keeping India to a low total. He has a commendable record in India – in six matches in the country, he has picked up seven wickets at 13.42 and has an even more impressive economy of 5.87. If Australia are to get off to a winning start, one suspects this 26-year-old will have a role to play.
The weather is expected to be warm and humid, and the skies clear. There might be a bit of dew. The strip at Visakhapatnam is generally good for batting, but there often is support for spinners, provided dew doesn't play a big role.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Sidharth Kaul, Mayank Markande
Australia: Aaron Finch, Ashton Turner, Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja, D'Arcy Short, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Peter Handscomb, Adam Zampa, Jason Behrendorff, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins
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