It's good to see the return of the ODI tri-series in Australia after a gap of four years. Started back in the summer of 1979-80, the ODI tri-series has been one of the most looked forward events in one-day cricket. After India winning the series in 2008, we saw a couple of years, which featured bilateral ties.
The decision to get rid of the tri-series was quite understandable because the matches not featuring the home team don't attract much of interest. Also, there have been times when the third team is a weak one and their matches are pretty much one-sided affairs. One odd game is understandable, but this tri-series is a long one and fans expect competitive cricket.
This time it's going to be a different story though. We have three teams who are good and have a lot of following throughout the world. The fans would be eagerly waiting for the clash between Australia, the number one ODI side, the world champions India and World Cup runners up Sri Lanka.
However, since the World Cup last year, things haven't been good for both the subcontinent teams. While India managed a 3-2 win in West Indies, they failed to win a single game in England, losing the series 3-0. For Sri Lanka, times have been worse on and off the field - issues with the board, changes in captaincy, sacking of Geoff Marsh as coach and on top of that poor performances.
They have lost at home against Australia while they lost away to England, Pakistan and South Africa. Coming straight from the tour of South Africa will help them somewhat as the conditions are similar and in patches they played good cricket. They won a Test and the last two ODI wins were quite good. Mahela Jayawardene, the new interim skipper, has a proven record and will look to better things.
Unlike Sri Lanka who have gone down fighting against South Africa, the Indians haven't done anything of note so far in this tour. But undoubtedly they are a good team and it's just a matter of confidence and one win, which can change things for them. The first game on Sunday will garner a lot of interest. The last time India and Australia met was in the quarterfinal of the World Cup.
This time, though, the Australians look like the clear favourites. Their batting looks solid with the experience of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey with the mix of young talents like David Warner, Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh. They have looked to get their balance right. Warner is someone I am looking forward to. If he is in for 40 overs, we may see well see another ODI double hundred.
The wicket at Melbourne will be much more suited to batting this time than what we saw in the Boxing Day Test. There will good bounce and India should be looking to play more pace bowlers, so the return of Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav will hold the key.
While Australia have the momentum with them, the depleted Indian team would look to draw inspiration from their World Cup win and their trophy win here the last time. Four years back, with a young side they managed to defeat a formidable Australian team. All in all, let us hope for an exciting match between the number one ODI side and the current ODI World Champions.