Big picture: Can Australia avoid whitewash?
The third ODI between India and Australia was expected to be a dress rehearsal for the teams' opening game at the World Cup but some of the key characters will be missing on Wednesday.
India will be without Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel and Mohammed Shami. Axar's inclusion was always subject to fitness; he suffered a left quadriceps strain during the Asia Cup and is yet to fully recover. But, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Kuldeep Yadav have joined the side. So there will still be plenty of heavy hitters on show.
Australia are likely to be at full strength, with Pat Cummins back as captain. Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc should also be in action tomorrow - both players missed the South Africa series earlier this month, and the first two matches here as well, but trained on Tuesday.
Australia have already lost the series but they will be looking to avoid what could be their first-ever whitewash against India in ODIs. The key to that, and to ending their five-match losing streak, could be an improved bowling performance. In four of their last five outings, they have conceded 338, 416, 315 and 399.
India WWWLW (last five ODIs, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Ashwin and Australia's death bowling
R Ashwin had played just two ODIs in the last six years when he got a call-up for this series. At that time, both captain Rohit and chief selector Ajit Agarkar pointed out that while Ashwin was out of action in ODIs, he was playing Tests and T20s regularly. That showed in the first two ODIs, as Ashwin picked up 1 for 47 in Mohali and 3 for 41 in Indore. In case Axar doesn't get fit in time for the World Cup, the team management has a replacement ready.
Australia's death bowling was under the scanner even before this series began. After the second ODI in Indore, where they conceded 103 in the last ten overs, their death-overs economy this year stands at 9.48 - the worst for any team. When it comes to taking wickets in this phase, only Afghanistan (20.95) among Full Members have a worse strike rate than their 20.60. Australia will be hoping Starc's return provides some relief.
Team news: Kishan to open?
In Gill's absence, Ishan Kishan could open the innings with Rohit. Bumrah and Siraj should replace Shami and Prasidh Krishna.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Ishan Kishan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Suryakumar Yadav, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Apart from Cummins and Starc returning, Maxwell could get his first game of the tour. Maxwell hasn't played competitive cricket since July, but before flying to India, he did feature in a 50-over practice match for Victoria where he batted, and bowled four overs.
Australia (probable): 1 Mitchell Marsh, 2 David Warner, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Alex Carey (wk), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Marcus Stoinis, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins (capt), 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Pitch and conditions: Another run-fest on the cards
The Rajkot pitch is often compared to the adjacent highway - in the three ODIs the venue has hosted to date, there have been four 300-plus totals. The last ODI here was in 2020, when India, batting first, posted 340 for 6. In response, Australia were all out for 304. The weather for Wednesday is expected to be partly cloudy, but there is no forecast for rain.
Stats and trivia: Australia's losing streak
The last time Australia lost five successive ODIs was in 2020. That streak also featured three games against South Africa and two against India.
Only once have Australia lost more than five successive ODIs; they lost seven in 2018.
Steven Smith needs 20 runs to become the fourth-fastest from Australia to reach 5000 in ODIs.
"You can't take away the class and the experience that the individual has. In the last couple of games, we saw how well he bowled. He has got a lot of variations up his sleeves and in case there is a chance, we can look at a lot of things."
Rohit Sharma on Ashwin
"Obviously leading into a World Cup, it's not a position that we want to be in - down in a series. But plenty to play for tomorrow in terms of what our make-up of the team looks like, what we want to take into a World Cup campaign. We still have two opportunities after this game before the full game in the World Cup. So another chance to be accustomed to conditions, to adapt to what's being thrown at us, against probably the favourites of the World Cup."
Mitchell Starc looks ahead to the third ODI