Adelaide: Keep hydrated and stay cool is the message from the city of Adelaide this week. Daytime temperatures have hovered around 40 degrees and are set to peak at 42 during the second ODI on Tuesday. Team India is also started to feel the heat. Down 1-0 in the three-match series, the visitors are still trying to figure out the best combination to dismantle Australia and keep the series alive.
Vijay Shankar will only arrive in Australia on the morning of the match, so is effectively not available for selection. That means Ravindra Jadeja is the only legitimate all-rounder who is capable of batting at No 7. Jadeja's inclusion, however, makes it difficult to fit both Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the playing XI. Chahal was a mere spectator during the T20 series in November and the leg-spinner also missed out in Sydney, but one senses India need his tidiness through the middle overs in Adelaide.
One member that might find it hard to keep his place in the XI is Khaleel Ahmed. In the four matches (3 T20s and 1 ODI) that Khaleel has played in Australia, the hosts have made a conscious effort to target him. The left-arm pacer conceded 55 runs from his eight overs in the opening match and he was clobbered during the T20 series in which his economy rate exceeded 10. Khaleel's lack of form could mean an ODI debut for Mohammed Siraj. The right-hand pacer had a stunning A series against Australia in July and will not look out of place in the playing XI.
Despite conceding 288 runs in the opening match, Virat Kohli felt that his bowlers had done a reasonable job and it was the batting that was a letdown. By no means has it has been a lean trot for Kohli, but compared to his lofty standards, it is remarkable to digest that the Indian skipper has only scored one century on the sojourn Down Under.
Kohli loves playing at the Adelaide Oval. He has scored four hundreds at the ground and averages a staggering 73.44 across all formats here. The Indian skipper was disgusted with the way he clipped a half-volley straight to square-leg in the first match and will be itching to notch up a big score at one of his favourite venues.
MS Dhoni kept the flame burning for India in the second ODI with a vital half-century, but it was his strike-rate of 53.12 that once again highlighted his decline as a batsman. It was the 60 dot balls that Dhoni consumed in his 93-ball knock that is the greatest concern for the team management. Rohit Sharma, after the match, stated that his personal opinion was for the former Indian skipper to bat No 4. But with Ambati Rayudu scoring a century at that position three innings ago, it is unlikely the team management will elevate Dhoni. The omission of Kedar Jadhav was rather strange, given he is a tailor-made No 6 spot and he can also provide another bowling option for Kohli. Without Pandya, India definitely need Jadhav's vigour in the middle order.
For possibly the first time in the summer, Australia are not under the pump. The hosts have the privilege of being one-up in the series and it should result in them playing with more freedom. They will also be buoyed by the way the new-look batting clicked. There has been a lot of criticism of Aaron Finch to demote Glenn Maxwell to No 7, but it is difficult to see Australia tinkering with the order that looked rather impressive three nights ago.
Finch, too, is in desperate need of runs. The Australian skipper is averaging 24.88 from his last nine innings and is yet to notch up a half-century in the four ODI innings this summer. While it seems inconceivable for Australia to drop their captain, there will be pressure on the opener to be amongst the runs.
The bowling unit looks stable and it will be interesting to see how Jhye Richarson and Jason Behrendorff back-up after a fine outing in Sydney. It could also be a pivotal game in Nathan Lyon's limited-overs' career. The off-spinner is desperate to prove himself in the 50-over game and be the frontline spinner at the World Cup. Lyon finished with figures of 10-1-50-0 in Sydney and didn't really pose a threat to the Indian batsmen.
Hot weather, placid pitch, and the short square boundaries indicate a batting phenomenon, but in the last ODI here against South Africa, Australia managed to defend 231. There will be more bounce in the surface than Sydney and the extra pace should suit the Indian top-order. India have only lost one ODI series since the Champions Trophy in 2017, but one senses that if Kohli falls cheaply again, the Australians could inflict a second series loss on Tuesday night.