With a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series under their belt, hosts India will take on Australia in the second match at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Thursday.
Led by some ferocious hitting from Hardik Pandya and a rearguard action by MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli’s men had overcome the visitors by 26 runs in a rain-curtailed one-dayer in Chennai.
Inclement weather could yet again make an appearance at the venue on Thursday with heavy downpours lashing the city in the past few days.
The forecast for the match-day does not look too promising at the moment with thunderstorms expected in the afternoon along with overcast conditions throughout the day.
Weather notwithstanding, the game should be a cracker with the defending World Champions expected to fight back hard after going behind in the series.
As such, we take a look at the three key talking points ahead of the encounter.
The Aussie skipper will be making 100th appearance for Australia in the 50-over format come Thursday.
Arguably the best Test batsman amongst the current generation, the 28-year-old made his debut for his country more than seven years ago.
Closing in on 4,000 ODI runs, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the baby-faced assassin. Unique in his unorthodox style of batting, Smith’s first four years in the limited-overs format were a bit of a blur.
The right-handed batsman played 34 matches in that period scoring a combined total of 399 runs at a measly average of just 21.
A highest score of just 46 in the particular time-frame highlights the batting woes of a younger Smith.
However, since 2014, the Sydney-born batsman has played 65 games, scoring 2789 runs at an average of over 51. All of his eight tons and 17 half-centuries have come in this period.
After a slow start, the Aussie has really transformed his game to greater dimensions and as such, will remain a prize wicket for the Indians.
While most of the bases in the Indian batting-order seem covered at the moment, one spot in the middle-order still remains up for grabs.
The number four slot has seen a tussle between KL Rahul and Manish Pandey but neither of them has been able to consolidate the position when given the chance.
Pandey was picked for the role ahead of Rahul in the Chennai game only to depart for a second-ball duck. In India’s recent 5-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka, Rahul was the preferred option for the first three ODIs but a combined score of 28 in his three innings meant he was dropped for Pandey in the final two games.
An unbeaten half-century along with a score of 36 by Pandey in those games meant he kept his spot for the opening match of the current series.
Rahul’s performances in the Test arena have been nothing short of great but the 25-year-old has not been able to translate the same form in the 50-over format despite scoring a century on his debut.
At the moment it looks like the Indian team management will persist with Pandey on Thursday but do not be surprised if Rahul is recalled into the starting line-up soon.
The winners of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup have not had the best of times on the road in the white-ball format.
The Aussies have won just once in their last 10 matches away from home in ODIs. That the sole win came against Ireland in 2016 highlights the current woes faced by the team.
Australia’s last two away series have been against New Zealand and South Africa. They were blanked 2-0 by the Kiwis and hammered 5-0 by the Proteas.
A winless run in the ICC Champions Trophy earlier this summer meant they did not progress to the knock-out stages as expected.
So dismal has been their form on the road that former skipper Michael Clarke has already voiced concerns about the captaincy of Smith in the limited-overs format.
“Smith’s batting has been outstanding for a long time but his captaincy is challenged now. He needs to define the way for his team to have success,” Clarke had said while presenting Don Bradman’s bat to Fanattic Sports Museum in Kolkata.
Another loss at Kolkata could lead to more ramblings in the media regarding Smith’s captaincy in the format.
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