India will play two T20Is and five ODIs against Australia at home. The five ODIs will be dress rehearsals for India to finalise their World Cup squad. India have few spots to finalise and the five-match ODI series will be the perfect platform for selectors to firm up their decision on the squad. Besides, few players will be looking to produce a few good performances to seal their berth in the World Cup squad.
India, under Virat Kohli, should try for some experiments before they can zero in on their World Cup squad. Cricwizz takes a look at those experiments India must try in the ODI series against Australia.
Virat Kohli bats at No 4 for India
Indian coach Ravi Shastri has mentioned he would like Virat Kohli to bat at No 4 in the World Cup. His reasoning is that if India had a top-order collapse, his best batsman in Virat Kohli can bail the team out at No 4. And Kohli’s presence in the middle-order at No 4 can add much depth to the batting line-up. In recent times, India have faltered when their top-order, comprising the top three in Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli, have fallen cheaply. The Sydney ODI against Australia is a case in point. India lost the match after being reduced to 4/3.
Virat Kohli has played at No 3 mostly in limited-overs cricket. And hence, it will be a position out of his comfort zone. Ambati Rayudu has done well at No 4, but he has been inconsistent. India can try interchanging Kohli’s spot with Rayudu in the ODI series against Australia and see how the two shape up.
This experiment will help India be ready for any challenges that the World Cup might throw at them. And the ODI series against Australia is the best occasion to try this experiment.
Try a reserve opener in Dinesh Karthik or Ambati Rayudu
With KL Rahul struggling with poor form, India would not be taking any specialist and back-up opener in the World Cup. They might ask one of their middle-order batsmen to double up as an opener. India can try Rayudu for the opener’s slot in the ODI series against Australia and see how the Hyderabad batsman braces up for the challenge.
India can rest either of the two main openers – Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan – and give Rayudu a chance at the top of the order. If either Rohit or Dhawan gets injured in the World Cup, India will have Rayudu to fall back on.
India may also try Dinesh Karthik for the reserve opener’s slot. Karthik has opened for India before. He has the shots, skills, and temperament to do well as an opener. He should be tried as an opener as well to shake him out of his comfort zone and be ready for any challenge.
Try new No 3 – Rishabh Pant or Vijay Shankar
If India ask Kohli to bat at No 4, then India can try the explosive Rishabh Pant at No 3. Pant showed great promise in the T20I series against New Zealand at the top of the order. India would need a big hitter like Pant for the World Cup. And Pant should be given a few more opportunities at the top to inspire confidence in the team management and selectors that he can make a difference to India’s results in the World Cup if he is selected.
Pant can be drafted in the squad as a specialist batsman alone. But Pant needs a few good scores under his name to seal the World Cup berth.
Another player in the reckoning for the World Cup is Vijay Shankar who did well with the bat at No 3 in the final T20I against New Zealand at Hamilton. India would need another medium-pace all-rounder in the squad to make the best use of English conditions. And Shankar should be persisted with in the ODI series to see if he is good enough for the World Cup.
Defend a score for a change
India, under Virat Kohli, love chasing in limited-overs cricket. Kohli, the master chaser, is a specialist in such situations. But can it be said the same when it comes to defending a score?
That’s debatable as India bowling can crumble under pressure or in counter-attack. Hence, India should brace up for all challenges in the ODI series against Australia and chose to bat first and defend a score. India’s bowling and fielding will be tested in low-scoring games and the ODI series is a good platform to take on this challenge head-on.
Test the bowler’s batting skills
Indian bowlers hardly get the chance to bat in international cricket. And when they do, it’s during hopeless situations when the top 6 and 7 have fallen cheaply.
For example, in the Hamilton ODI against New Zealand, India were bowled out for just 92. India were reduced to 40/7 and the tailenders rallied to take the score to 92.
Bowlers such as Bhuvneshwar Kumar are good batsman as well and need a few opportunities to improve their skills.
In the ODI series against Australia, if India are chasing and are comfortably place to haul up the score, they can try sending in Bhuvi to do the finishing job.
India would have experienced finishers in MS Dhoni, and Karthik to do the job anyways for the team if Bhuvi fails.
But it’s important to prepare the bowlers to face tough situations when batting and score few valuable runs for the team. And in a big event such as the World Cup, it’s imperative that every player makes a contribution in their secondary skill as well.