"Agreeing to this meaningless ODI tour of India so close to an Ashes series is evidence that Cricket Australia is more concerned with dollars than sense."
That was the view of Australian cricketing legend Ian Chappell in his ESPNCricinfo column ahead of Thursday's sole T20 clash between the sides in Rajkot.
The match is the first of eight fixtures in Australia's quick sojourn to India following their disappointing summer in England, with seven ODI fixtures to follow. Chappell, among others, is unimpressed at the somewhat rushed tour ahead of the return Ashes series next month.
Few Test players are involved, though, and Australia travel with one of the most inexperienced sides in their recent history. Of the touring party, only Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson have played over 100 ODIs, but India would be foolish to take the visitors lightly.
At this weekend's T20 Champions League final in Delhi, five of the 22 players on show—Watson, James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell, Johnson and Nathan Coulter-Nile—are in the Australian touring party, compared with just two in India's squad for the series.
Talking to PTI per ESPNCricinfo, India batsman Rohit Sharma was quick to emphasise the fact the visitors' knowledge of the conditions could play in their favour.
They are a very competitive side with most of their players having featured in the IPL and the Champions League. They know the Indian conditions well. We can't get complacent against them. Australia on a given day are a very dangerous side.
India, though, has not been a fruitful hunting ground for Australia on recent tours. Indeed, their visit for four Test matches earlier this year resulted in four straight defeats.
Australia's representative sides at the Champions League T20 competition also greatly disappointed as the tournament reached an inevitable all-Indian final.
Whether more people eventually subscribe to Chappell's view of the series will ultimately depend on the outcome of the Ashes, but Australia cannot afford to be humbled given the low ebb at which they currently find themselves.
Shane Watson vs. Ishant Sharma
Not only is Shane Watson one of the most explosive batsmen in the Australian lineup, he is one of the few reliable old heads to which captain George Bailey will look to make a big contribution.
Watson had a torrid time of things in England this summer, but made a stunning innings of 143 in the final ODI in Southampton to give some indication of how good he can be. However, he still has a major issue with the swinging ball early in his innings.
Ishant Sharma, as the most experienced of the Indian seamers on show, will be the man looking to expose any weakness. Sharma's record is unspectacular for a man who showed such early promise, but he does have 94 ODI wickets to his name—although only eight in T20I cricket.
If he can pin Watson early in his innings, he will go a long way to helping India win the match.
Yuvraj Singh vs. Xavier Doherty
It has been a long few months for Doherty, who has not taken more than a single wicket in an innings since March. Australia will need him to be at his accurate best if they are to contain a strong Indian middle order headed by the powerful Yuvraj.
Yuvraj is returning to the India setup for the first time in 2013, having impressed on recent outings for India A against a touring West Indies A side.
An enormous score of 123 has been followed by two half centuries over the past few weeks, with Yuvraj scoring at a strike-rate of nearly 150 in T20 internationals—per ESPNCricinfo, he is someone who can take the game away from Australia in a matter of minutes.
Doherty, whose T20 international economy rate of 7.88 is on the high side, will have to play a major role in stemming Yuvraj as a source of middle-innings runs.
1. India will win the T20 international by a comfortable margin.
2. A big middle-order score from either of the experienced pair of Yuvraj Singh or MS Dhoni will be a major factor in the win.
3. Australia's chronic lack of a top-class spinner will be highlighted once more.