It's that time of the year again. Australia's international cricketing summer is set to kick-off with India touring the country for a full-fledged series " consisting of three ODIs, as many T20Is and four Tests.
While Australia resumed their international duties before the IPL with a tour to England in September, this will be India's first assignment since February, when they lost an away Test series in New Zealand, before the coronavirus pandemic halted sporting action across the globe. While the visitors have named separate squads for ODIs and T20Is, the Aussies have named a combined squad for both the formats.
While all-rounder Moises Henriques returns to the squad after three years, another duo who is set to make headlines are Steve Smith and David Warner " who missed out the last time when India toured Down Under due to their ban following the 2018 Cape Town ball-tampering involvement.
Ahead of the highly-anticipated limited-overs series between the two cricketing heavyweights, we take a look at Australia's players to watch out for:
Stoinis' rich vein of form makes him a vital cog in the Australian limited-overs setup. The all-rounder will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility in both the formats. The Aussies may have not only found a perfect finisher in Stoinis but also someone who can bowl important overs and pick wickets at crucial junctures.
Marcus Stoinis is also flexible while batting anywhere in the lineup. AFP
Stoinis was the X-factor for Delhi Capitals in their lead-up to the IPL 2020 final, where his team finished runners-up after losing to Mumbai Indians. He notched up 352 runs and 13 wickets from 17 games, and ended his best-ever IPL as DC's third-highest run-getter. During the course of the campaign, Stoinis was a game-changer for DC at times, and something similar can be expected from the 31-year-old for his country.
Stoinis is also flexible while batting anywhere in the lineup, just as he showed in DC's Qualifier 2 against Sunrisers Hyderabad earlier in November. He opened the innings with Shikhar Dhawan in that match, and forged an 86-run stand, as he notched up 38 runs off just 27 balls. He can open the batting, act as a finisher, bat in the middle order. His versatility can be of huge help for Australia and the hosts will be expecting a lot from their ace all-rounder.
He may have picked up just two wickets in the three IPL matches he played, but Adam Zampa knows a thing or two about his Indian opponents, especially Virat Kohli. Zampa will be one of the go-to men for skipper Aaron Finch in the middle overs in both ODIs and T20s.
The 28-year-old from New South Wales was in a fiery form before the IPL, ending up as the top wicket-taker in the ODIs against England (10 wickets in three games) in September.
In Zampa, Finch has a lethal weapon that could stop Kohli. The leg spinner has dismissed the Indian captain five times in ODIs and twice in T20Is. And that Kohli vs Zampa battle will be fascinating to watch.
India seem to be one of Zampa's favourite opponents in ODIs, with the 28-year-old picking up 20 wickets in just 13 games so far.
Since returning from the ball-tampering ban in March 2019, Warner has aggregated 202 runs in four ODIs against Virat Kohli's side, with an impressive average of 67, whereas he has also amassed 473 runs overall in T20Is since October 2019 at a mind-boggling average of 94.60, which includes an unbeaten century and five fifties. Overall, in ODIs, the 34-year-old has registered 960 runs off 20 matches at an average of 53.33, which includes four centuries (One against India earlier this year in Mumbai). He will go into the India series on the back of yet another productive year in the IPL where he amassed 548 runs. In ODIs, Warner averages has a decent average of 49.29 against India with 838 runs from 19 matches.
The numbers tell the story of a man in sumptuous form and he will be one of the biggest threats for India on this tour.
Even before the IPL auction last year, Mitchell Starc had opted out of the cash-rich league due to the ICC T20 World Cup. However, despite that edition of the World Cup being moved to 2022 amid the coronavirus pandemic, Starc did not regret his decision to miss the IPL.
As a result, the pacer has enjoyed an extended break since the end of the England tour in September, where he picked up five wickets in the T20Is. So, he will be rejuvenated when the two teams meet in a few days time.
Starc recently warmed up for the full-fledged India series in the Sheffield Shield tournament, where he scalped nine wickets in two games for New South Wales, apart from hitting an unbeaten 86 (against Tasmania).
Starc will form the deadly-looking pace trio consisting of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. His aggression lifts the entire team. He can swing the ball early on and bowl yorkers at the death. His threat is always there and if he adds consistency to his prowesses, he could be ever so lethal for Australia. With the threat he poses, it is nearly impossible to look away from the experienced speedster.
The absence of the injured Mitchell Marsh means that the task will be cut out for batting all-rounder Marnus Labuschagne. The 26-year-old may be in his early days, but has already impressed for his country, notching up five centuries and 10 fifties across the two formats (Test and ODI), since making his international debut in 2018.
He made his ODI debut against India when Australia toured the country early this year, and while he did not have to bat in the first match, he followed it up with scores of 46 and 54 in the next two games.
His batting average of 50 against India is his second best in ODIs against any country (After 56 against New Zealand), and he is sure to add stability to the batting line-up.
Labuschagne was recently seen in action for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield tournament, where he notched up centuries in consecutive matches (167 vs Tasmania and 117 against New South Wales).