Chennai, Dec 29: India, on Sunday, will begin One Day International life without Sachin Tendulkar. The Master Blaster, who ruled ODIs for 23 years and enthralled audience world over, will be missed as India take on Pakistan in the first of the three ODIs here in a day game at MA Chidambaram Stadium.
But the opening match of the series might not be a 50-over affair and there is also a possibility of complete wash out with rain threat. On Saturday, both teams had to cancel practice due to persistent rain throughout the day.
India and Pakistan drew the two-match Twenty20 International series 1-1 on Friday. Both encounters were thrillers and same can be expected in the next three games in 50-over format.
India and Pakistan will face off in a ODI game for the first time since Asia Cup in March. That was Tendulkar's last ODI on March 18. India won on that day by 6 wickets in Dhaka with Virat Kohli smashing a 148-ball 183. However, both teams are in a bilateral series after five years. Last time, when Pakistan toured India in 2007, India took the series 3-2.
It will be a different feeling for Team India without their batting icon Tendulkar. Having played a record number of 463 ODIs and over 18,000 runs since 1989, his absence will be felt. However, Tendulkar, in recent times, was not a regular part of squad as he used to opt out of few tournaments.
The absence of Tendulkar means, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will be re-united at the top of the order. India's strength is their batting and with Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and captain MS Dhoni, one is assured of high scores in all three venues - Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi.
The T20Is exposed India's bowling weaknesses. It is almost the same combination here. Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and uncapped Shami Ahmed are the pacemen with spin department led by R Ashwin. Comeback man Amit Mishra and part-timers Yuvraj and Ravindra Jadeja will add to the slow bowling options.
Pakistan hold the upperhand in bowling department. With their selectors retaining 7-feet 1-inch tall left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Irfan for the series, it will be interesting. Initially, Irfan and Shoaib Malik were not part of the ODI squad, led by Misbah-ul-Haq.
Pakistan's batting revolves around the experience of Younis Khan and Misbah. Umar Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed and Azhar Ali are the other batsmen who will in the limelight.
Saeed Ajmal will have a big role to play with his spin with Shahid Afridi being ignored for this series. He has headed home after T20I series.
The second ODI will be in Kolkata on January 3 and the final one in Delhi on January 6.
It should be an exciting series but the opening act could be marred by rain.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Imran Farhat, Umar Akmal, Anwar Ali, Zulfiqar Babar, Mohammad Irfan.
The match starts at 9AM IST