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When the two captains go out on the field for the toss on 22nd February, there would be different emotions and different reasons for them, but the aim for both the captains would be the same; to draw first blood. There has been a lot of talk about MS Dhoni’s captaincy in the testing version of the game, and he would be desperate to go out and prove his critics wrong. On the other hand, despite having the weakest Australian side since 1980s, Michael Clarke has done nothing wrong. Australia won their home test series against Sri Lanka and thrashed West Indies recently. Both teams are under some major transitions due to retirement of some big players, and it would be interesting to see their approach towards this game.
Since the shocking defeat against England, this is the first time India would be playing the longest format. They’ve played ODI cricket and results weren’t spectacular. The biggest advantage for India is that they are playing in their own backyard with good spinners; having said that, it was the same reason India lost the test series to England. With only Sachin left in what was once called the ‘Fabulous Four’, there would be a lot resting on his shoulders. Sachin has scored some runs in recent Irani Cup match and is looking good. The biggest problem still lies at the top; Vijay and Dhawan are both too inexperienced to handle sharp quick bowling and Virender Sehwag is planning for a place in middle order. It would not be surprising if Dhoni backs Sehwag to open solely due to the threat he poses to fast bowlers.
With the retirement of Mr. Cricket, all now depends on Michael Clarke. He is the most experienced man on the field and has scored a lot of runs lately. The cause of concern is likely to be spin bowling as they lack experience to bowl at subcontinent tracks. Their batting, except Clarke and Watson, seems to be very thin. Their pace bowling is definitely better than the Indian side, but India has better spinners no doubt. Injury to Warner has raised their concern to another level. Australia has always been a fighting side, irrespective of place and position, and we expect no less here.
As both the teams are going under some major transitions, choosing between the sides has become ever more difficult. Indian side is more experienced than Australia and conditions suit India better. Furthermore, Australia A didn’t even pose a threat to India A side which was quite surprising. Australia lack a quality spinner and pace bowling isn’t going to matter if pitch is anywhere near a typical Chennai pitch. I’d place my money on home team for several reasons with experience getting the most weightage, and given that the odds seem to favor Australia for some reason, it will be a larger than usual one.
Winner: India, 2.20 @ Bovada