Pat Cummins faces tough balancing act in India-Australia ODI series

Visitors have a number of injury concerns while India will test bench strength in first two games

Australian captain Pat Cummins speaks to the media ahead of their first ODI against India in Mohali. AP
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Australia will look to get the most out of the upcoming three-match ODI series in India - the best possible preparation for the World Cup that begins early next month in the country.

The Aussies have a number of injury concerns and time is running out for their first-choice team to get up and running before the main 50-over event begins on October 5.

Captain Pat Cummins is hopeful of playing in all three ODIs against India, the first of which is in Mohali on Friday, on his return from a wrist injury. However, fast bowler Mitchell Starc and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell will miss the series opener.

Left-arm quick Starc has been recovering from a groin injury sustained during the Ashes series in England, while Maxwell will join the squad on Friday having recovered from an ankle injury.

"My wrist is all healed now ... hoping to play all three games," Cummins said on Thursday.

Veteran batsman Steve Smith is also set to return from a wrist injury. However, opener Travis Head has been ruled out with a fractured hand, making him doubtful for the World Cup as well.

"We want to strike the balance between getting used to these conditions, hopefully winning some games, but we also don't want to get to that first [World Cup] game and already be cooked," Cummins said.

"No doubt we'll be trying a few different combinations, a few different players will get a chance but ideally we'd like to structure up pretty closely to how we'll play in the World Cup."

While Australia are missing a few names, what they do have in abundance is all-rounders. Marcus Stoinis shared the new ball on the recent tour of South Africa and the Aussies have two more pace-bowling all-rounder options in Cameron Green and Sean Abbott.

"You need five bowlers, so the more all-rounders you have you can really bolster your batting," Cummins said.

"It gives us flexibility to pick four genuine bowlers or maybe three bowlers and bat an all-rounder at No. 8. Hopefully Maxi [Maxwell] comes back later in the series, but the other three guys have been bowling fantastically."

India too will look for answers to some key questions. They have rested star names like captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav for the first two ODIs.

The home team will be captained by KL Rahul in the absence of Sharma, who returns with other key players for the final match of the series.

The first two matches will see off-spinners Washington Sundar and Ravichandran Ashwin vie for the lone spot in the final ODI World Cup squad in case Axar Patel fails to recover from his injury.

Also, Shreyas Iyer will be desperate to prove his fitness from back injury after he missed most of the Asia Cup due to a recurrence of back issues.

Updated: September 21, 2023, 2:01 PM