Rohit Sharma’s presence as the new leader, with a new model to stop the well-known ‘middle-order muddle’, is exactly what the Indian team needs as they usher in a new era, which will begin with the ODI series against West India, which begins Sunday in Ahmedabad. After a rough reality check against a weak South African side in the series, India is now back in familiar surroundings with a new ODI captain in Rohit, who will team up with the illustrious Rahul Dravid and strive to make India winning again .
The series opener is the historic 1000th ODI for India, who are eager to begin their preparations for the 2023 World Cup after failing to win the coveted trophy in 2015 and 2019, and the team will indeed look to see a paradigm shift in strategy.
The ‘Rohit-Dravid’ duo will underline the ‘Men in Blue’ philosophy in the 50-over format over the coming months after it became clear that some adjustments are needed as part of the course correction.
So the series starting Sunday would be the perfect platform to focus on straightening out their struggling middle order.
First, Skipper Rohit, one of the best white-ball exponents, will have to lead from the front.
With KL Rahul unavailable in the first game and other specialist openers Shikhar Dhawan and Ruturaj Gaikwad both testing COVID-19 positive, it will be Ishan Kishan who would open the skipper battle.
“Ishan Kishan is the only option we have and he will open with me,” Rohit said on the eve of the series opener.
“Mayank (Agarwal) has been added to the roster and he is still in isolation. He came (arrived) late and we have some rules. If someone is travelling, we have to put him in (mandatory) quarantine for three days. He’s still not done with his quarantine, so Ishan will open the innings,” explains Rohit.
Rohit can handle any attack on cleaners in his day and the rather inexperienced of the West Indies would be no exception and ditto for Kishan.
In the series against South Africa, save for Rishabh Pant’s knock in the second game, the middle order has crumbled on all three occasions and the need of the hour is to have impactful players in it.
With Shreyas Iyer not available for the series, there is a chance for the aggressive Suryakumar Yadav and the equally formidable Deepak Hooda, who has put in quite the performance in the latest Vijay Hazare Trophy, to impress the national selectors.
Apart from two, a lot will depend on how Virat Kohli performs.
India had tried rookie Venkatesh Iyer in an unknown middle position in South Africa, but the experiment didn’t work.
In terms of bowling, left arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is back with the ODI squad and would most likely be in the playing XI along with his seasoned partner Yuzvendra Chahal.
Kuldeep, 27, played his last ODI against Sri Lanka in July 2021 and recently recovered from surgery.
But the team management has recruited young Jodhpur-born googly bowler Ravi Bishnoi, and it would be interesting to see if he gets a match right away.
In the absence of main pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, who are rested, the bowling unit is expected to be led by ‘Palghar Express’ Shardul Thakur, who shone in the Johannesburg Test against South Africa.
It’s the best chance for Thakur, whose batting prowess was seen in the ODI series against the Proteas, to cement his place on the side.
Also, along with him, the series offers young bowlers like Mohammed Siraj, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna and Avesh Khan a chance to stand up and stake a permanent claim with two years left before the World Cup.
Meanwhile, the West Indies would come into context after their confidence boosted the T20 series win over England, although the format is very different.
The team from the Caribbean features power-hitter Nicholas Pooran, who can turn the game upside down. He would also like to impress the franchises before the IPL auction.
However, he would need support from others.
Also the role of skipper Kieron Pollard and experienced all-rounder Jason Holder could one day make a difference.
Pollard and his men would be only too happy to spoil India’s feast in their marquee.
India: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (Vice Captain), Mayank Agarwal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper ), Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohd. Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (Captain), Fabian Allen, Nkrumah Bonner, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Nicolas Pooran, Kemar Roach, Romario Shepard, Odean Smith, Hayden walsh jr.
Match starts at 1:30 PM.
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