Having come to Australia riding on their batting strength, India have seen that the cookie crumbles differently at times. It was the bowlers for most part of the first three Tests who kept them alive and ironically enough, coming to the one-dayers now, batting appears to be the biggest concern for the team that has Sachin Tendulkar.
Lack of experience and poor form lower down the order coupled with the fitness problem bugging Yuvraj Singh have reduced India's strength considerably and things don't look bright heading into what is certain to be a rigorous few weeks against some quality bowling. Australia and Sri Lanka both would think this is an area India are vulnerable in.
Following what has been the trend of this team for some time, the Indians don't talk about things like batting order or options elsewhere in the line-up in public, so it's not clear who will bat where. Given that Tendulkar is expected to open with Virender Sehwag, the problems surface thereafter, at least as long as Yuvraj is out.
Going by Indian standards and the conditions in the sub-continent, there is a reasonable amount of talent in Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina or even Dinesh Karthik and Manoj Tiwary, if he eventually becomes a part of the squad. A few of them have done decently in the past, when given a chance.
The problem is, with MS Dhoni instilling little confidence as far as shepherding the lower order is concerned in the absence of Yuvraj, the middle looks hollow. If the proven and experienced ones at the top fall early, none can say with certainty that those following can rise to the occasion.
Since Gambhir can't come deeper down, the batting looks top heavy because Uthappa, Sharma or Raina are yet to do anything that can help the team management say with conviction here's one who will bat at No. 4 and get a fair run in that position. It's not clear whether there are thoughts of making changes at the top until Yuvraj comes back.
Not without reason did Ricky Ponting reiterate on Saturday that he was surprised by the omission of Sourav Ganguly. “He did well against us in the one-day series in India, but there is some talent in the Indian middle-order. Having said that, we've seen some of them and there's no reason why our plans against them shouldn't work.”
The inclusion of Raina in the squad is interesting, considering the kind of touch he has shown in domestic matches. Thrown out after a mediocre showing, the left-hander has had the time to reassess his strengths and weaknesses and only time can tell whether he has learnt his lessons.
Again somewhat ironically, India are better placed in the lower order, if Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar bat there, but between the top and this part of the order there is a gap which is too big to overlook.