India must think outside the box to test middle order during West Indies ODIs

Ajit Vijaykumar 09:00 23/10/2018
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Kohli and Rohit are a sensational ODI pair. Image: BCCI/Twitter.

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are one of the most devastating opening pairs in contemporary ODI cricket. Rohit and Virat Kohli are the most productive partnership in ODI history if you consider number of double hundred partnerships – five, which is the most. Rohit Sharma has the most 150-plus scores in ODIs – six – while Kohli has most centuries while chasing targets in excess of 300 – eight.

We know that. Fans have been enjoying such stats for a long time. The top three of Indian batting is an all-time great. But there is more to an ODI team than numbers one, two and three.

During the Asia Cup in the UAE, middle order batsman Kedar Jadhav had expressed his relief at the absence of Kohli as it gave the rest of the players time in the middle and gave the management an opportunity to assess them in a high-pressure environment. It was due to the absence of Kohli in the UAE that India found a reasonably reliable middle order bat in Ambati Rayudu and saw Ravindra Jadeja regain his touch as a lower-order power hitter.

The remaining four matches of the ODI series against the West Indies have every chance of going the way the first one in Guwahati did where Rohit and Kohli devoured the Windies bowling and posted ‘daddy hundreds’. It does a whole lot of good for their averages but it means yet another ODI has gone by where the middle and lower order hasn’t had a bat.

In all 17 matches remain between now and the 2019 World Cup. If India are to truly get their line-up battle ready then they need to go out of their way to give the rest of their batsmen game time.

It makes sense to rest one of the top three by rotation for the remaining four ODIs and give batsmen like Rayudu, Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni more time in the middle as it is very important to have at least two of them with runs under their belt going into 2019.

The brilliance of the top three can’t be denied but what happens if they all fail at the same time, as they did during the 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan?

West Indies offer enough challenge to test the Indian batting and the management should give the idea of rotating the batting a consideration.

When it comes to bowling, India have rested seamers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar while No1 wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav didn’t play the first match against the Windies. The batting too needs a re-look and it won’t hurt if Rohit or Kohli take a step back and give breathing space to others.

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