India suffered their biggest ever defeat against Australia in Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium in the first ODI and will have everything to play for in Rajkot.

One is to be considered immensely mistaken or shortsighted if the humiliating Indian defeat at the hands of Australia is being viewed by them as a mere eye-opener. If anything, this is a statement made in the face of the men in blue at their own backyard, showing them how easily dispensable they are against a quality squad. What should easily be considered as the biggest ODI defeat for India in a long-long time, the first ODI was a forgettable affair that they will ironically find impossible to forget soon enough. The Wankhede crowd that came out in support of team India expecting a real competition at play was not just left disappointed but deflated. Having been outplayed in all three departments of the game, there was hardly anything for the crowd to cheer about throughout the day. From losing the toss and being asked to bat first to not being able to pick a single Australian wicket through their innings, we wonder what all should the think tank must be pondering about.

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Anyway, while it’s important for India to try hard enough to put this loss behind and turn up a completely different unit in the next do or die game, we will try and assess where they went wrong along with anticipating the changes they will make in the next game in Rajkot. Virtually every fantasy cricket lover had a hard game since nobody who they put their money on could deliver. But as they say, sport is a great leveler and a team like India is expected to only react with the strongest of responses. Let’s look at the game ahead that now promises even more thrill with the stakes being raised to the optimum.

The Ground

The Saurashtra cricket association ground in Rajkot will be in all readiness to host the second ODI of the series. The ground has had a mixed history for India with some memorable matches and some not so much. Remember the blistering Yuvraj Singh innings more than six years ago in a T20 while chasing a total in excess of 200 against the same opponent Australia? It was played on the same ground. The last time an ODI was played here was long back in 2015 where the Indians just couldn’t give themselves a move to chase a total against South Africa. A T20 against Bangladesh was recently played here in November that India comfortably won. The Rajkot wicket has traditionally favored the batsmen and we can expect the same conditions to present themselves on Friday. The dryness in conditions may even prompt the Indian management to go in with two spinners. But will this too be a win the toss and chase kind of a wicket? Yes, pretty much so.

The Weather 

Gujrat at this time of the year begins to prepare itself to bid winter a goodbye. The conditions will be quite varied from Mumbai in most aspects. The day will feel more dry and hot and will begin to get cooler as the match progresses. The night might feel colder than the players could prepare against and hence dew would play a factor in this match as well. No, there is absolutely no chance of rain threatening this game in any capacity. The only kind of rain we could see is if the batsmen exploit the conditions well and rain sixes and boundaries.

Team India

Prepare yourself to witness massive changes happening in the lead up to this match. The one decision to somehow fit KL Rahul in the mix may not have backfired big-time, it did however upset the rhythm and composition of the team. It pushed Kohli down at number 4 and the players to follow him just didn’t feel comfortable in the middle at all. Does it make sense though to make way for a third opener in the team only because he’s in good form? Very debatable. Leaving Kedar Jadhav out also seemed to be a decision with less sense especially given the conditions and bowling options. As predicted, India only played Jadeja and Kuldeep leaving Chahal out in this one but that can change in Rajkot. India could look to make way for Kedar Jadhav in place of Jadeja who hasn’t looked lethal with his bowling at all. Jadhav, other than being a handy batsman lower down the order could also offer a few slow bowling overs. We can also expect Navdeep Saini being given a go in place of Shardul Thakur who seemed all over the place and was targeted by both Aussie openers. However, Pant’s concussion is also something to be looked at and that also gives management an opportunity to make space for Rahul with his wicket-keeping abilities backing him. Assuming, Pant is made to be sit out in the next one, here’s what the team could look like and in this order: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.

Team Australia

Having had the best field day that they could have hoped for, the Australians wouldn’t think much about changing the composition of their team. While they might think about going in with Josh Hazlewood as an extra pace bowling option in place of Ashton Agar, the final decision will only be made after seeing the conditions. Here’s what the Australian line up could look like: Finch, Warner, Labuschagne, Smith, Ashton Turner, Carey, Richardson,  Cummins, Starc, Agar, Zampa

The Toss

Given the nature of play especially in the limited-overs lately, both captains wouldn’t hesitate to bowl first finding their comfort in chasing. India has clearly been exposed to their discomforts while batting first and all other teams have understandably taken note of it as well. Australia though isn’t a side that would like to play more on opposition’s weakness than their own strengths. However, given how deep they bat, chasing will still appear as a more enticing deal for Finch in any given condition. Kohli, on the other hand, must be praying to all gods to let the toss go in his favor. In a do or die match such as this, India will want nothing more than getting to chase down a total under lights.

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Mumbai ODI felt like an aberration with Australia dominating the play with such control. But such is the aura of team India that one strong defeat feels like everything’s crumbled. The coaches will only be telling them it was only a bad day at work and nothing else which isn’t false at all. A slightly toned batting order with a good balance thrown into the side and India will feel confident again. The greatness of this team lies in its ability to bounce back when pushed in a corner. We predict a very strong comeback by the Men in Blue on Friday, let’s brace up.