Ahead of the series against Sri Lanka, captain MS Dhoni had virtually ruled out changes to a line-up that had bearded Australia in their den. On Friday, in a move that paid rich dividends, Dhoni promoted rookie all-rounder Hardik Pandya to No 5, ahead of him and Yuvraj Singh.
Pandya’s knock helped steer India to a big total after the loss of two quick wickets. The 22-year-old vindicated the captain’s faith, producing a 12-ball 27 that proved vital in India’s push for a big total on a Ranchi wicket that played slow.
With Pandya’s promotion, most members of India’s batting line-up have now received some exposure in the lead up to the World Twenty20. The two batsmen who have yet to spend some time at the crease in this format though are Yuvraj and Dhoni.
Coming down the order, the two have predominantly batted after the 15th over. Yuvraj did not get to bat in the first two games in Australia.
While his case has received a lot of attention, Dhoni too has struggled to come in the end and play aggressively straightaway for some time now.
Although Yuvraj showed in the Sydney T20 what damage he can still cause with the bat — he hit a four and six to help get 17 runs in the last over — on their current form, he and Dhoni appear India’s weakest links in batting.
On Friday, Dhoni and Yuvraj came into bat in the 18th over with hardly any time to express themselves. Yuvraj fell on the first ball trying to hit out.
The decider in Visakhapatnam thus provides a good opportunity for the team management to let the two seasoned batsmen go in early.
Speaking after the game on Friday, Dhoni hinted that he will be exploring options to give Yuvraj more batting time in the build-up to the World T20. However, he said considering the form of the top-four batsmen, there was little scope to tinker with them.
“I have played with Yuvraj for a long time and know he needs some time in the middle before he can hit the big shots; not that he can’t let loose from the get go, but he is a proper batsman who excels when he’s given some time to spend in the middle,” Dhoni said.
“If you see the top four, Rohit (Sharma), Shikhar (Dhawan), Virat (Kohli) and Suresh Raina, they have been in extraordinary form, be it in Indian conditions or overseas. It has therefore become difficult to replace them and bring people in their place.”
Team director Ravi Shastri had said ahead of the game in Ranchi that the management wanted to experiment with the line-up ahead of the WT20. However, the team’s position in the tournament will also be a deciding factor.
Dhoni said: “Our intention is to provide all players some exposure ahead of the World T20. We hope to utilise the next few games to give those who have not had some time in the middle to bat.”