Since their semifinal exit in the 2019 World Cup, Australia haven't played any 50-over games, which is the case with several other sides. For India, the series will be only their third ODI campaign since the World Cup, with the other two series against West Indies. Since August 2019, a total of 35 ODI games have been played, which is a touch more than 14 percent of international cricket matches played in the said period.
The T20 World Cup is fast approaching while the Test championship is also underway with India and Australia having quite a huge lead over the rest of the teams. In this context, one-day international games, especially in a bilateral series, make little sense. But an India-Australia series more often than not is accompanied with some spice and excitement, which according to skipper Virat Kohli is enough to settle the debate when it comes to questions raised on the relevance of the format.
"Look, when you are playing Australia, you don't look at the relevance of the series. It's about playing against the best. The way they are playing their cricket now, after Steve and David have come back, it's pretty intense. They are challenging every team and they are dominating few teams as well," said Kohli, who added that the a white-ball series against a high-profile team like Australia will serve in India's T20 preparations.
"I think we, along with Australia, are probably the top two sides in the world, as far as the balance is concerned. Whether it's relevant or irrelevant that's for people to decide. But we as a team are excited to play Australia, in our conditions, to test ourselves against the best. Also that's how the calendar is laid out. When you have played too many games then you can think if a series is relevant or not. But in the year of the World Cup, as many games we play, it is going to benefit us, especially white ball cricket. From that point of view, we are looking forward to play this series."
The last time Australia toured India for an ODI series, they staged a brilliant comeback after being two-nil down, going on to clinch the series. They did so without the in-form batting trio of David Warner, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, and also did not have the services of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood then. Now, they have arrived in India with a well-rounded squad having covered all bases.
"They are a stronger side than the one that came to India last time," said Kohli. "But they still won the series last time. In the series before that, they played a full strength side but we won the series. You can have the most experienced and the most skilled players in your squad but if you don't play well as a team in that series, you won't win.
"That's what happened to us last time and when we went to Australia, it's what happened to them. That shows you how competitive the series between these two teams are and it's never a dominating series, the margin is always 3-2 or 2-1. Maybe five games would have been exciting. But taking on Australia, even in our conditions, they have played so much IPL, now they are pretty experienced in these conditions. It's always a good and a tough challenge playing Australia, because of the skill set and the mindset they bring on to the field."
Among those skillset that might prove important for Australia is the swing and the angle of Mitchell Starc, which serves as a potent weapon considering India's top order has struggled on occasions against left-arm pace. Kohli too recognises the threat that comes with facing someone like Starc, as well as the quality of the rest of the Australian bowling department.
"I've played with him, played against him a lot. He is a very skilful bowler. And he changed his action now, which we saw him getting more swing, looks like he's back to swinging the ball like he used to, and that makes him a lethal bowler all-over again. When he gets to swing the ball like that with the new ball and then he can tear it away with the old ball because he has got his action in a linear fashion. It is pretty interesting to come up against a guy like that," he said. "We'll definitely have to be up for it and especially the younger guys in the middle-order. They should look for a challenge. Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, if he plays (Kane) Richardson is an experienced bowler, Adam Zampa all these guys will challenge us throughout the game."