Health concerns sidelined Mohammed Siraj, the ace Indian bowler, for the inaugural One Day International (ODI) match against Australia at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. The Indian team management, not wanting to gamble with their star player’s wellbeing, decided to rest Siraj for the series opener. Despite his absence from the warm-ups and practice sessions, Siraj’s condition is not alarming; it was a cautionary step, considering the imminent World Cup.
As Abhishek Nayar, a former Indian all-rounder, explained, Siraj has been unwell for a few days, and his health was prioritised over the game. His absence was also confirmed by Aakash Chopra, former India opener, before the toss, stating that Siraj did not participate in the only practice session before the series against Australia.
Despite his health issues, Siraj, who recently regained his top spot in the ICC ODI rankings with a stellar performance in the Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka, appeared in high spirits during the pre-series photoshoot. His bowling prowess was at the forefront in the Asia Cup final, where he decimated the Sri Lankan batting lineup, registering figures of 6/21 and bringing their score to a measly 50.
To fill the void left by Siraj, Mohammed Shami has been called up. Despite being a formidable bowler in his own right, India had previously kept Shami out of the XI due to their chosen combination. Nayar commented on the situation, stating that Shami is a more than adequate replacement for Siraj, given his past record as India’s top pacer.
In other team news, following their triumphant Asia Cup run, India opted for a reshuffle in their lineup with the World Cup in sight. Captain Rohit Sharma and star batsman Virat Kohli are being rested for the first two ODIs, along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya and wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. KL Rahul, recently recovered from a leg injury, will captain the side for the first two matches. Moreover, veteran off-spinner R Ashwin has returned to the ODI XI after a 20-month hiatus.
Australia, on the other hand, is coming off from a 3-2 ODI series defeat in South Africa, despite leading 2-0 initially. For their India tour, the Australian team has enlisted their strongest side. Captain Pat Cummins and Steve Smith have returned to the squad, with Mitchell Marsh opening the batting with David Warner, replacing the injured Travis Head.
The first match will also see the absence of left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc and batsman Glenn Maxwell. Wicketkeeper Alex Carey has been rested, with Josh Inglis stepping in to replace him.
The Indian team for the match consists of Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (c/wk), Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami. The Australian lineup includes David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Short, Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, and Adam Zampa.