Ranchi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, probably playing for the final time at his home ground, will be the cynosure of all eyes when India take on Australia in the third ODI, aiming to take an unassailable 3-0 lead here on Friday.
Dhoni, who along with wife Sakshi, hosted the Indian team for dinner on Wednesday evening, has been the toast of the state ever since he made his ODI debut way back in 2004.
The 37-year old former India captain, who has led the country to two World Cups, will be playing his fourth ODI at the JSCA International Stadium.
In the last three ties, India have won one, lost one and rain washed the third match.
Dhoni has batted only twice in Ranchi in which he has scored 10 not out (vs England on October 23 of 2013) and 11 (vs New Zealand on October 26 of 2016). In terms of wicket-keeping on his home turf, Dhoni has three catches and a stumping in Ranchi.
What will keep Dhoni’s supporters going is the fact that in his recent form. Dhoni has already collected 301 runs from just eight matches at a staggering average of 100.33 in the ongoing season ahead of the World Cup.
Dhoni also recently joined the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in an elite list of Indian batsmen to have scored over 13,000 runs in List A cricket.
Besides the emotional sub-plot, Team India will be looking to fix their top-order as they prepare for the World Cup starting in June in the UK.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan has been in terrible form, managing only two fifties in the last 15 ODIs, and the dashing southpaw will look to get his act together.
There is the option of replacing Dhawan with in-form KL Rahul, but the team management is unlikely to tinker with the playing XI as they look to get the combinations right.
Rahul, though, could play in place of Ambati Rayudu who hasn’t been very convincing in the two ODIs.
Vice-captain Rohit Sharma also would look to score a big one after not getting many in the last game.
Skipper Virat Kohli brought up his 40th hundred but would want more contribution from the top. On Friday, Kohli could bat at No.4 with Rahul given an opportunity to show what he has got at No.3.
India’s two victories — by six wickets and eight runs — weren’t exactly convincing but pulling off close matches under pressure will certainly add to the confidence.
The bowling has been nothing short of spectacular in both the games for the hosts.
The visitors were not only stifled but kept in check with totals of below 250. In the second ODI, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar performed their combined role of a fifth bowler to perfection.
Shankar’s final over could go a long way in securing his place in the World Cup squad with the Tamil Nadu all-rounder taking two wickets and guiding India to the win.
Talking about the visitors, it was their match to win in the last game and the lack of character shown would worry the team management. The Aussies did well to restrict India to 250 and were on course for most parts of the match. Marcus Stoinis held one end up with a defiant half century but ran out of partners as Jasprit Bumrah showed why he is considered the best in the business.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant.
Australia: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Alex Carey, Nathan Lyon, Jason Behrendorff.