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Ravichandran Ashwin
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India v Australia first ODI preview: In-form pair battle for supremacy

Australia began their tour of India with comprehensive defeats in the first two Tests, but victory in the third game and a solid draw in the fourth has set them up nicely for the three-match ODI series which begins on Friday.

The tourists will continue to be led by Steve Smith in the absence of regular captain Pat Cummins due to personal reasons, while their pace options have also been limited due to injuries to both Josh Hazlewood and Jhye Richardson.

On the batting front David Warner is back in the fold after an elbow fracture, while all-rounder Mitchell Marsh is set to return after an ankle injury.

The hosts will be without batter Shreyas Iyer as he struggles with back problems, while fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah continues to be sidelined by the back injury that has kept him out of action since late September and Rishabh Pant is also a long-term absentee.

WhatIndia v Australia
WhereWankhede Stadium, Mumbai
When08:00, Friday 17th March
How to watchBT Sport 3
OddsIndia 8/13, Australia 13/10

Both teams in peak one-day form

India head into this series having won their last seven one-day internationals, with six of those victories having come on home soil against Sri Lanka and New Zealand - giving them a perfect ODI record so far in 2023.

Virat Kohli was the star of the show against the Islanders as he made two centuries in three innings, with the Lankans beaten by 67 runs, four wickets and a record 317 runs in the third match - being bowled out for just 72 after the hosts had racked up 390-5 from their 50 overs.

Opener Shubman Gill then took top billing against the Black Caps as he made two tons from three knocks, including a magnificent 208 in the opening match of the series.

With the ball, seamer Mohammed Siraj impressed in taking 14 wickets across the two series and he proved especially adept at taking wickets with the new ball.

Australia, meanwhile, have not played any ODI cricket since their 3-0 whitewash of England in a series which was slightly devalued as it came just days after the Three Lions had claimed success at the T20 World Cup.

However, the Baggy Greens form before that series cannot be discounted and overall they are on a run of nine victories from their last ten ODI outings.

Pandya in place for series opener

As well as being without Iyer, Bumrah and Pant, the home side will be without captain Rohit Sharma for the series opener in Mumbai on Friday, with all-rounder Hardik Pandya stepping up to lead his side.

The absence of Rohit will undoubtedly be felt, as he has made nearly 10,000 ODI runs at an average of 48.91 and a strike-rate of 89.89.

Ishan Kishan and KL Rahul are the two most likely contenders to open the batting alongside Gill, whose ODI scores so far in 2023 read 70, 21, 116, 208, 40 not out and 112.

Kishan will be eager to make the most of any opportunity he is given, having made the fastest-ever ODI double century against Bangladesh late last year, before struggling to make an impact in the middle-order against New Zealand.

He is 6/1 to be Team - Top Batter on Friday, with the bang in form Gill available at 7/2 and Kohli 5/2, having made three centuries in his last seven ODI innings.

With the ball Siraj seems like the obvious choice to be Team - Top Bowler at 10/3, but all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (9/2) is back in the one-day fold for the first time since last summer and will be full of confidence after taking 22 wickets in the Test series.

Head ready to make his mark

While Smith and Warner remain very much the backbone of the Australia batting line-up, along with Marnis Labuschange, left-hander Travis Head is certainly a player to watch after excelling in white-ball cricket in recent times.

The left-hander’s last nine 50-over innings have yielded two centuries and three fifties, including 152 against England at the MCG in his most recent ODI outing in late November last year.

Having been exiled from the one-day picture since 2018, Head averaged 68.75 across his nine ODI innings in 2022, while he also impressed in the recent Test series in making 225 runs at 47.00 when batting both in the middle-order and as an opener.

Head is a decent 4/1 to be Team - Top Batter on Friday, while the fit-again Glenn Maxwell (11/2) is always an intriguing prospect and, having overcome a nasty leg injury, he will no doubt be eager to prove himself ahead of the 50-over World Cup later this year.

The fact that tournament will be played in India only adds to the importance for players on both sides.

Mumbai no happy hunting ground for hosts

The Wankhede Stadium has only been used as a one-day international venue three times in the last decade and India have lost all three of those matches, being beaten by South Africa, New Zealand and, most recently, Australia in January 2020.

Of even more concern for the hosts will be the margin of those losses, with Australia romping home by making 258 without loss in their victory - as both Warner and Aaron Finch recorded unbeaten centuries.

The Black Caps reached 284-4 to win their meeting with India by six wickets back in October 2017, while the Proteas ran out victors by a huge 214-run margin two years earlier after racking up 438-4 from their 50 overs - with Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers all reaching three figures.

Those previous losses alone with give Australia plenty of reasons to be optimistic for Friday, even if they are 13/10 to get the better of their hosts.

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