India beat the Kiwis but questions remain unanswered

Well, that was a bit of a let-down, wasn’t it?

Going in to the final ODI of the series, the Kiwis had shown fantastic character and fight to tie the ODI series 2-2. However, Vizag saw India wrap up an easy 190 run win so that everyone could have an early night before Diwali celebrations begin on Sunday.

The Kiwis were bowled out for 79, their lowest score against India. Rohit and Kohli scored half-centuries. Amit Mishra picked up five wickets. The long tour seemed to finally get to the Kiwis and it looked like some of the Black Caps had already mentally checked-out.

While the win was a nice little Diwali gift, India will need to do some thinking. While the Champions Trophy 2017 is set to start next June (8 months away!), India only play three more ODIs before then.

Here are four question marks that continue to hang over India’s limited overs team. 

Who opens the batting?

Conditions in England are drastically different from the sub-continent and openers need to be tighter against the moving ball. Rohit is a fixture at the top of the order. But who will partner him- K.L. Rahul, Rahane or Shikhar Dhawan?  Shikhar Dhawan was very successful last time around, even winning the Player of the Tournament award, but our preference would be to bring K.L. Rahul in at the top of the order. Rahul’s technique will help him ride out tough conditions and he can score as quickly as Dhawan once he gets in. Shikhar sits out but does this mean Rahane misses out as well? Read on.

Where does Dhoni bat?

The recently concluded series has shown that the Indian line-up is over-dependent on Kohli. Both matches that India lost saw Kohli “fail” by his own ridiculous standards. Some solidity is required in case he goes early. Dhoni at 4 is one spot too high in our opinion. Last time around, Dinesh Karthik played as a specialist batsman at number 4 and made important contributions with the bat. Our view is that a proper batsman would be a better bet at 4 than Dhoni so Rahane gets our nod instead. Dhoni at 5 works well because (a) he should get sufficient time to play himself in at 5 and (b) he will be a calming influence for an inexperienced middle order. Rohit, Rahul, Kohli, Rahane and Dhoni sounds like a solid top 5.

Who are the finishers?

Candidates for the crucial number 6 spot are Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Suresh Raina. The experienced Suresh Raina misses out in our book – he has not had the best luck with his illness preventing him from making a comeback in the recently concluded series against the Kiwis. Jadhav is staking a strong claim with his lusty hitting and his off-spin will be useful if India want to play an extra batsman. However, Pandey inches ahead of the other two based on his fantastic innings in Australia earlier this year.  Watch this space.

Who are the bowlers?

Bumrah is a no-brainer given his excellence at the death. We would pick Bhuvneshwar Kumar over Shami, Ishant or Umesh as English pitches are more likely to assist his swing and seam. Pandya will have to be the third seamer. He has put on a yard of pace and should open the bowling with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Pandya and Kumar can both bat as well so that helps their case. Ashwin and Jadeja both pick themselves.

There you have it – based on current form and assuming no injuries, our suggested combination for the Champions Trophy 2017 – (1) Rohit, (2) Rahul (3) Kohli (4) Rahane (5) Dhoni (6) Pandey (7) Pandya (8) Jadeja (9) Ashwin (10) Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (11) Bumrah.

Let’s see how things develop over the next few months.

Happy Diwali!

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