India has been going through mercurial crests and troughs in the middle order and things have to fall in place quickly for the team to be in contention for the 2018 World Cup.
In the first two ODIs, KL Rahul was not able to settle at number 4 and ultimately lost his place in the side. Dinesh Karthik was given a nod in his place in the final ODI but he too failed to capitalise after getting a start.
For some strange reason, Virat Kohli has got starts but has not been able to convert them into centuries. Whenever Kohli gets to 20 or 30, more often than not his conversion rate is very good. However, the ODI series against England has been an aberration as Kohli has got out.
The pressure has then built on the middle order. Dhoni has consumed a lot of deliveries to further increase the pressure. Hardik Pandya has shown promise but then got out. This is left the Indian lower order exposed which does not have the capability to create an impact.
After KL Rahul has come into the picture, things have got further complicated. We can’t afford a talented batsman like KL Rahul to be sitting out and that too when he is in red-hot form. He has to be accommodated somehow in the squad. That being said, Kohli forsaking his No 3 spot at which he has been so successful over the years, is a bit odd.
In the press conference on the eve of the England T20Iseries, Kohli had said, “Well, we certainly are going to be more flexible. We want everyone to have a go. We will throw in a few surprises here and there. In T20Is, because it is not such a long innings, we can afford to do that.
“At the start of any tour, we are as excited as the opposition. Especially, when you are playing a tough side such as England, it is a chance to test yourself. It gives an opportunity to test fringe players. We are going to try a few players, we want to test their skills, especially in limited over crickets.”
However, too much chopping and changing has done the team no good.
The ideal scenario can be to open with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma at the top. Virat Kohli then must come at three. Because simply put, he is the best batsman in the Indian ODI team and hence he ought to face maximum deliveries.
KL Rahul can then follow at No 4. Rahul must be given more time. This will lead to a formidable Indian top 4 and inevitably, one of these four will fire in every match.
In the first T20 against Ireand, Virat Kohli sent KL Rahul to open the innings for India. Rahul slammed a breezy half century to take India to a 200 + total. In the first T20I against England as well, KL Rahul was promoted up the order. However, this time Virat Kohli sacrificed his own spot to accommodate Rahul.
While Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been opening the inning for India for a long time and have performed exceedingly well, Virat Kohli has been the mainstay of the batting order. Kohli comes out to bat at number 3 and guides the Indian innings. Not only this, it has been several times that Kohli has even taken India to victory, finishing the game for the team.
He has an ODI average approaching 60 and is one of the greatest limited over batsmen in the world.
Suresh Raina has been a letdown, to say the least. It feels as if his best days are past him. One has to believe that he has retained his spot in the side only for the reason that he can give his team a few overs. However, he has been very expensive and may have seen his last.
The biggest conundrum is regarding MS Dhoni who has failed to fire. Not only that, he has played too slowly for his own liking and has let the pressure get the better of him. It seems like Dhoni is thinking too much before going for an attacking shot. It would be in the greater good of himself and the team if he goes back to his vintage self and does not bother too much in taking the attack to the opposition.
Given that India needs one batsman in the top 6 who can also roll his arm over, the best bet seems to be Krunal Pandya. He is a handy batsman and can give you 4-5 overs as. Well, this in all likelihood seems the way forward as India gear up for the 2019 World Cup.