Shikhar Dhawan and K. L. Rahul will aim to cement their position as openers and a top-heavy Indian batting line-up will aim to show more intent during the three-match ODI series Bangladesh that begins on Sunday.
The focus for the next year will primarily be on ODIs in which India’s approach, just as in T20Is, needs a sea change.
There are numerous players fighting for a few spots in the Indian white-ball team. It isn’t the proverbial ‘good headache’ for the team management as such a scenario is suggestive of an unsettled line-up.
Until recently, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were automatic picks as India’s preferred ODI opening pair. But Dhawan’s slow approach in the Powerplay overs and the emergence of Shubman Gill as a potent 50-over opener are bound to throw up many possibilities. Rahul played a few games in the middle order a year or so ago but he loves to bat at the top and has had a fair amount of success, too.
Ironically, numbers or statistics do not give a clear indication of who should be Rohit’s opening partner for the series. For the 19 ODI innings Dhawan opened for India this year, he had a poor strike rate of 75.11. Rahul, on the other hand, has five centuries and 10 fifties in 45 ODIs with a healthy strike rate 85-plus. He has an impressive average of 45, too.
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For the opening match against Bangladesh, in case the team management wants to rest Dhawan, who may be jetlagged having flown all the way from Australia to join the team in Mirpur, Rahul will certainly join Rohit at the top.
While Virat Kohli at No. 3 is an automatic choice, Shreyas Iyer is gradually securing his place as India’s No. 4. Rishabh Pant, after his heroics in the ODI series in England, remains ahead of Ishan Kishan to start as No. 5 in the line-up.
Pant has copped flak for some of his cheap dismissals in T20s, but despite some underwhelming shows in the recently concluded series, he remains the first-choice keeper in 50-over format. Kishan, who prefers opening in T20s, has got all his three half-centuries in ODIs batting at either No. 3 or 4. It is believed that Kishan isn’t being looked at as a finisher. If he is played, he has to be fitted somewhere in top four.
But this whole equation could be turned upside down if Rahul decides to keep wickets, something which he has done sporadically in the past.
With Sanju Samson not playing this series, Rajat Patidar and Rahul Tripathi, two consistent domestic cricket and IPL performers, will fancy a chance or two to stay in the mix. Tripathi is also a seam bowler, and in the absence of Hardik Pandya, who is rested to lighten his workload, the Pune man might just provide a back-up option.
Chance to test Umran’s skills on dead tracks
With Mohammed Shami ruled out due to a shoulder injury, Umran Malik has a chance to show a different facet of his bowling on tracks that are expected to be batting-friendly. The pitches are likely to be a tad slower. Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Siraj, and Shardul Thakur look certain to start against a Bangladesh side that will miss regular skipper Tamim Iqbal.
The Indian team mustn’t have forgotten the recent pasting that they got from newly-appointed ODI captain Litton Das in a T20 World Cup match in Adelaide. Litton will like to lead from the front but it is the bowling that will be tested, as Taskim Ahmed is not playing. Mustafizur Rahman, Ebadot Hossain, and Shakib Al Hasan form a potent attack but it won’t be as formidable.
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