Irrespective of when the seniors -- Shikhar Dhawan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami -- return to the fold, India have enough bench strength to win ODIs at home. Yet in two matches, India haven’t been able to chase down totals that aren’t jaw-dropping in the least.
On both occasions, India ran out of experience around the halfway mark. And irrespective of their promise, it is still a bit premature to ask Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav or Hardik Pandya to finish the game by themselves. MS Dhoni spoke about giving them time after India’s defeat in Ranchi on Wednesday.
But it seems that if one of the experienced players is always present at one end to guide the junior, the youngsters can make better use of that time. That can only happen with a balanced batting order.
In this series, India have opted for Ajinkya Rahane to open with Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli comes in next while for the last two ODIs, Dhoni has come at No.4 with mixed results.
It would make much more sense if the experience is spread across the batting line-up. Not only does it make the batting look deeper, it also ensures hopes of a win don’t evaporate the moment the fourth wicket falls.
This isn’t the first time Rahane is being used as an opener. But given his technical ability to switch between defending and slogging in a matter of few deliveries, Rahane can be of greater use if he comes in at No.5.
In the absence of Dhawan, Pandey could be considered a good option to partner Sharma. A clean hitter of the ball, he can inflict considerable damage when the ball is new and hard.
The century he scored against Deccan Chargers in the 2009 IPL came as an opener so it isn’t as if Pandey won’t be comfortable at the top. This allows Rahane to come lower down the order and steady the ship in case there is too much of a wobble at the top.
There also needs to be clarity on how Dhoni envisions his future as a batsman. Two significant things have happened in this series --- Dhoni has walked his talk of coming up the order twice and Pandya almost won India the Delhi ODI.
By admitting that he is not able to rotate the strike as well as he used to do, Dhoni has complicated the scenario. It is better to come up the order and blast off some quick runs, something he did in Mohali. But then in Ranchi, the same ploy didn’t work because of a tricky pitch.
This is where Dhoni needs to recognise a middle order --- perhaps Rahane, Jadhav and himself --- and shuffle it according to the demand of the match. But whether it’s Pandya or someone else, there is an immediate need to look for the next finisher. And ideally, it should be Dhoni who should be at the other end to guide him in a tough situation and take over if needed.