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India set for tri-series with one eye on World Cup

Mohit Sharma

Melbourne: All set to defend their cricket World Cup crown in less than a month, India will get their preparations underway with the aim of finding the right combination for the marquee event when they take on Australia in their opening match of the ongoing ODI tri-series here tomorrow.

While this tri-series provides the perfect setting for experimentation, the need of the hour is to get a settled combination going ahead to instill confidence in the side.

In the recently-concluded Test series, these same set of players did compete well despite a 0-2 score-line saying otherwise. However, the change in format cannot be negated and there will always be a few cobwebs to be cleared.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will return to international cricket after a little over two weeks since his Test retirement at the same venue, and he will have some decisions to make. The first order of business will be to make a firm choice about the opening combination.

With less than a month to go before their opening World Cup encounter against Pakistan in Adelaide, it is worrisome that India’s openers are yet unknown.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, the team management has failed to specify whether it will be Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma pairing up with Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order, or indeed whether a third possibly-surprising combination might be thrown up.

The choice of openers will have an effect on the rest of the batting order as well. If Rahane opens with Dhawan, where will Rohit fit in? Indeed, if Rohit opens the innings, will Rahane return to number four, a position he has not been comfortable with.

Or, will Virat Kohli be moved down a spot from his favoured number three, a move he experimented with while leading the side at home against Sri Lanka?

Unlike the team’s preparations ahead of any Test match, their net-sessions for an ODI do not throw up any suggestive patterns and it was the same on Saturday as well. In no particular order then, all batsmen enjoyed a decent hit in the nets including Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny.

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