Shortly before the commencement of the ICC ODI World Cup 2023 on October 5, India and Australia, two prime contenders for the championship, will engage in a series of three ODIs, commencing on September 22. This series holds immense significance as it serves as the final preparatory stage for both teams.
Australia is arriving after a 3-2 series loss to South Africa, while India carries confidence from their recent victory in the Asia Cup 2023, where they dominated Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Many cricketing stars will grace the field in this highly anticipated showdown.
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Here are five players worth keeping a close eye on in the first two ODIs.
1. Shubman Gill:
- Background: Shubman Gill, the young and talented Indian opener, has been making waves in international cricket with his elegant batting technique and impressive shot selection. He’s known for his ability to anchor the innings and play long, match-winning knocks.
- Key Strengths: Gill’s solid technique, confidence against pace and spin, and adaptability to different conditions make him a formidable force at the top of the order.
- Recent Form: Gill has been in outstanding form throughout the year. He played 18 matches this year, scoring a remarkable 1052 runs with a brilliant average of 70.13 and an impressive strike rate of 104. This included five centuries. In the recently concluded Asia Cup 2023, he was the highest run-scorer, amassing 302 runs in six matches, including one century.
- Why to Watch:With his remarkable consistency and ability to play match-winning innings, Gill is a player who can make a significant impact on any match.
2. Glenn Maxwell:
- Background: Glenn Maxwell, the Australian all-rounder, is a game-changer with both bat and ball. Known for his explosive batting and handy off-spin, he can single-handedly turn the game in Australia’s favor.
- Key Strengths: Maxwell’s ability to clear the boundary at will and his knack for picking crucial wickets make him a match-winner. His innovative shot-making and fearless approach add excitement to any contest.
- Recent Form: Maxwell has played only one game this year, scoring just 8 runs. He missed the recently concluded white-ball tour due to an ankle injury and paternity leave. However, his overall record against India is impressive, having scored 921 runs in 29 matches with an average of 36.84 and a mammoth strike rate of 137.
- Why to Watch: While his recent form has been less than stellar, Maxwell’s proven ability to turn games on their head with explosive batting and crucial breakthroughs will be a key factor to watch out for when the two cricketing gaint will collide. His past performances against India suggest he can be a game-changer.
3. Steve Smith:
- Background: Steve Smith, the former Australia captain, is one of the modern-day batting greats. His unorthodox yet effective technique and incredible consistency make him a vital asset for Australia.
- Key Strengths: Smith’s impeccable timing, ability to play spin, and his knack for playing match-defining innings under pressure are his standout qualities.
- Recent Form: In recent ODIs, Smith has struggled for form, managing only 22 runs in 2 matches. His absence from the recent white-ball tour of South Africa was due to wrist injury. Nevertheless, when it comes to facing India in the ODI format, Smith’s track record is exceptional. Over 24 matches, he has amassed 1145 runs at an impressive average of 57.25.
- Why to Watch: Despite his recent setbacks, Smith’s reputation as a world-class batter and his past successes against India in ODIs make him a player of great interest. His ability to hold the innings together and perform in high-pressure situations remains a significant threat to the opposition.
4. Shreyas Iyer:
- Background: Shreyas Iyer, the dynamic Indian middle-order batter, has been steadily climbing the ranks with his mature and aggressive batting style. He’s known for his ability to accelerate the run-rate when needed.
- Key Strengths: Iyer’s ability to find gaps, his quick footwork against both pace and spin, and his sharp cricketing brain make him an exciting prospect.
- Recent Form: This year has been a roller-coaster for Iyer. He faced several setbacks, including injuries that caused him to miss the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, the World Test Championship (WTC) 2023 final, and the West Indies tour. Just as it seemed he was on the path to recovery, Iyer suffered another injury in the form of back spasms during the Asia Cup.
- Why to Watch: Despite his injury woes, Iyer’s reputation for being mentally tough and his desire to make a strong comeback are reasons to keep an eye on him. If he can regain full fitness, his aggressive batting and ability to counter the Australian bowlers especially spinners will be a valuable asset for India.
5. Ravichandran Ashwin:
- Background: Ravichandran Ashwin, the experienced Indian off-spinner, is a key component of the Indian bowling attack. His variations, control, and ability to deceive batters have earned him accolades worldwide.
- Key Strengths: Ashwin’s mastery of spin, his ability to extract turn and bounce from any surface, and his wicket-taking capabilities in the middle overs make him a game-changer.
- Recent Form: Ashwin’s last ODI appearance was against South Africa in Paarl in January 2021. Since then, he has struggled to secure a permanent spot in the Indian ODI setup. Nevertheless, injuries to other players, such as Axar Patel, have opened doors for Ashwin. He now has a maximum of three opportunities to prove his worth and make a strong case for himself before the final squad submission for the ODI World Cup 2023.
- Why to Watch: Ashwin’s battles with Australian batters, especially in the crucial middle phase of the innings, will be intriguing. His ability to break partnerships and control the game’s tempo makes him a vital player in the series.
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