1000th ODI: Middle-order in focus, India look for 'fresh ODI template' in Rohit-Dravid era
Ahmedabad, Feb 5 (PTI) Rohit Sharma's presence as the new leader, with a fresh template to arrest the familiar 'middle-order muddle', is exactly what the Indian team needs while ushering in a new era, which will begin with the ODI series against the West Indies, beginning here on Sunday.
After a rude reality check against a weak South African side in the away series, India are now back in familiar settings with a new ODI captain in Rohit, who will team up with illustrious Rahul Dravid and strive to get India back to winning ways.
The series-opener is the historic 1000th ODI for India, who would like 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 at a paradigm shift in strategy.
The 'Rohit-Dravid' duo over the course of the next few months will underline the 'Men in Blue's philosophy in the 50-over format after it became clear that some rejigging is needed as a part of course correction.
Thus, the series beginning Sunday would be the perfect platform to focus on setting their struggling middle-order right.
Firstly, skipper Rohit, one of the finest 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 is in all likelihood that Mayank Agarwal, who was added to the squad, would open with Rohit.
However whether Agarwal will be straight be thrown into a match without a training session due to quarantine is another question, especially when Ishan Kishan is also in the mix.
Rohit on his day can take any attack to cleaners and the West Indies', rather inexperienced one, would be no exception and ditto for Mayank.
In the series against South Africa, save Rishabh Pant's knock in the second game, the middle-order 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 aggressive Suryakumar Yadav and equally formidable Deepak Hooda, who has had a decent outing in the last 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 unfamiliar middle-order position in South Africa, but the experiment didn't work.
In terms of bowling, left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav is back to the ODI squad, and would most probably be in the playing XI along with his seasoned partner Yuzvendra Chahal.
The 27-year-old Kuldeep played his last ODI against Sri Lanka in July 2021 and recently recovered after undergoing surgery.
But the team management has included young Jodhpur-born googly bowler Ravi Bishnoi in the squad, and it would be interesting to see if he gets a game right away.
In the absence of key pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, who have been rested, the bowling unit is expected to be led by 'Palghar Express' Shardul Thakur, who shone in the Johannesburg Test against South Africa.
It is the best chance for Thakur, whose prowess with the bat was on display in the ODI series against the Proteas, to cement his place in the side.
Also, along with him, the series provides a chance for young bowlers like Mohammed Siraj, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna and Avesh Khan to step up and stake a permanent claim with two years left for the World Cup.
Meanwhile, West Indies would come into the context after their confidence-boosting T20 series win over England, although the format is entirely different.
The team from the Caribbean possess a power-hitter Nicholas Pooran, who can turn the game on its head. He would also look to impress the franchises before the IPL auction.
He would however need support from others.
Also, the role of skipper Kieron Pollard and experienced all-rounder Jason Holder could be the difference on a day.
Pollard and his men would be more than keen to spoil India's party in their marquee clash.
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.
The match starts at 1.30 PM.