The darkest year in Australian cricket history ended with a whimper after India wrapped up their breakthrough Test series victory at a sodden Sydney Cricket Ground.
For Tim Paine and Justin Langer, an all too familiar post-mortem followed. For the vivacious tourists, led by the deified Virat Kohli, history was made: India’s first ever Test series win in Australia.
A seminal year for Australian cricket – featuring the World Cup and Ashes series, both on English soil, begins with a three-match one-day international series against the number two ranked Indians, and the only place to watch all of the action is BT Sport.
If consistency of selection is a prerequisite for major tournament success, Australia coach Langer didn’t get the memo.
In an effort to win their first ODI series in six – their worst run in white-ball cricket since 1985-87, Australia’s one-day squad has undergone a seismic overhaul since their 2-1 defeat to South Africa in November.
Prior to the South Africa series, Australia lost back-to-back ODI series’ against England 4-1 and 5-0, respectively.
They have also been beaten 4-1 by India and 2-0 by New Zealand since their last series success against the Blackcaps in 2016/17.
Only Captain Aaron Finch, Vice-captain Alex Carey, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa have survived from the series against the Proteas.
Batsmen Travis Head, Chris Lynn, D'Arcy Short, Ben McDermott and all-rounder Ashton Agar have all been axed, while veterans Peter Siddle, Usman Khawaja and Nathan Lyon have been restored to the 14-man squad.
Evergreen Siddle, 34, arguably the most mystifying selection, has not played an ODI since November 2010.
Pace trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummings – tormentor in chief of England’s battling line-up during the 2017-18 Ashes series – have been rested ahead of the Test series against Sri Lanka, which begins a week after the India ODI series concludes.
The scramble to find a winning formula is best demonstrated by the selection of uncapped Victorian Will Pucovski for the two-match series against Sri Lanka.
Pucovski, 20, has only played eight first-class matches, but scored a 243 for Victoria against Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield in October.
His inclusion comes at the expense of Mitchell and Shaun Marsh, one-day skipper Finch and Peter Handscomb. However, the omission of in-form Matthew Wade for the international rookie has left many scratching their heads.
Former Australian wicket-keeper Wade is the leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield with 571 runs at 63.44 and has impressed for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash.
The selection of novice batsman Pucovski speaks to the desperation among the Australian selectors to put a positive spin on a team flogged on and off the cricket field.
Steve Smith and David Warner remain banned for their part in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, although the ‘silver lining’, as Paine smirked after their defeat at the MCG, is that they are two Tests away from selection.
Cameron Bancroft has completed a nine-month suspension for his role in the sorry affair.
For India, Jasprit Bumrah, so dangerous in the Test series, has been rested and replaced by Mohammed Siraj for the entire series and the ensuing tour of New Zealand.
MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya have joined up with the Indians in Sydney alongside Rohit Sharma who returned home to attend the birth of his child.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the omission of 21-year-old wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant in favour of the experienced Dinesh Karthik.
Pant was the second-highest run scorer in the Test series and the enigmatic youngster has been backed to score more Test centuries than Indian legend Dhoni by former Australian captain Ricky Ponting.
Langer, who has lamented the ‘soap opera’ that accompanies coaching Australia following a tell-all interview with Bancroft on primetime television over the festive period, will welcome the opportunity to secure exorcise Test match demons in the shorter format.
Is there more ODI misery in store for shell-shocked Australia? The only place to find out is BT sport!
Gillette ODI Series Australia v India
First ODI: Saturday 12 January, Sydney Cricket Ground – Australia win by 34 runs.
Second ODI: January 15, Adelaide Oval – India win by six wickets.
Third ODI: January 18, Melbourne Cricket Ground – BT Sport 1, 2am.
Australia ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa
India ODI squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Siraj, Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Shami.
The only place to watch Australia take on India in a blockbuster three-match ODI series ahead of the World Cup is on BT Sport. If you’re not yet a subscriber, click here and we can you set up in just 15 minutes.