The Pandey, Iyer value in the middle-order

As India starts the three-match ODI series against West Indies on Thursday, the spotlight will be on comeback boys Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer.

Shreyas Iyer scored two half-centuries in four innings during India A’s 4-1 ODI series win against West Indies A in July, while Manish Pandey struck a 87-ball 100 in the same series.

Amid one-sided results and only flashes of fighting spirit from West Indies, the tour of the Caribbean is perhaps the best platform for Team India to find solutions to the long-standing middle-order problem.

As Virat Kohli and Co. prepare for the three-match ODI series — a new beginning after the World Cup semifinal exit — starting in Guyana on Thursday, the spotlight will be on Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey who are set to make a comeback after a promising show in the India A setup.

A string of low scores had made Pandey’s position fragile after 23 ODIs, while Iyer was overlooked post the tour of South Africa in February 2018. The two fifties [against Sri Lanka] in overall six games did not escalate his case either.

Former national selector Vikram Rathour, who recently applied for the Team India batting coach job, feels the team management need to back Pandey and Iyer. “It should solve the middle-order problem. Both of them have been doing well for the past couple of seasons. This is high time they get a long opportunity. They are capable of delivering. If they are backed properly, they will come good,” he told Sportstar on Wednesday.

Read: All eyes on Shikhar Dhawan as visiting India takes on WI in first ODI

The 24-year-old Iyer smashed two half-centuries in four innings during India A’s 4-1 ODI series win in the Caribbean in July. An 87-ball 100 bolstered Pandey’s chances.

Rathour has no doubts about their talent. “As far as the abilities are concerned, both are exceptionally talented.”

But if Pandey and Iyer strike with the bat, it could throw “a challenge for Kedar Jadhav”.

The Maharashtra all-rounder had a quiet World Cup but Rathour backs his experience. “He is a good cricketer and has done well in the past. In the World Cup, he got very few opportunities to be honest. He needs to do well and he is capable. I can understand why the selectors chose him. You need to have experience down the order with Mahendra Singh Dhoni not being there [in this series],” he added.

IPL captaincy – a new dimension for Iyer

Though in and out of the Indian team, Iyer ensured he made headlines for the IPL exploits. The batsman scored 400-plus runs in the past two seasons and led Delhi Capitals to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Mumbai wicketkeeper Aditya Tare, who has watched Iyer from close quarters in domestic cricket, believes that IPL captaincy brought the A game out of the batsman.

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Shreyas Iyer led Delhi Capitals to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

“He is pretty mature now. He gained a lot of experience leading the Delhi franchise in the IPL. It sort of added a new dimension to his game. He was always an aggressive batsman, a phenomenal talent. Whenever he played for Mumbai, he would be aggressive at No 3 and the team would get into a strong position. He would end up playing a long innings.

“He is absolutely ready for the Indian middle-order. He is a great fielder too,” said Tare, while pointing to another hidden skill-set of Iyer which is not known to many — his taste for wrist spin.

“He does bowl a bit of leg-spin which he enjoys. I am not too sure how much he will bowl but that’s something he can work on.”

Pandey got three games in the T20I series but for Iyer, the wait continues.