3 Talking Points for India ahead of Windies ODIs
Bilateral series may not attract plenty of attention as it does not matter much in the larger scheme of things. However, these games have certainly caught the fans' interest as in the wider context, India will look to try out different team combinations in order to find the perfect balance before the all-important ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
Surely, the team management will be keeping an eye on all the players and their performances so that Team India is able to field the best possible eleven in the 2019 mega event. Following roles in the team are the talking points for India ahead of their 5 match ODI series against West Indies:
The Number four position in the batting order
The trial for number four position which India started after Champions Trophy 2017 will continue in this series. India have tried KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthik for that slot. Ambati Rayudu is set to become the latest to audition for the role. Considering that bulk of Rayudu's runs have been scored from number three position in his career, it will be interesting to note how he adapts to the new role.
One thing we can be sure of is that we will see a very selfless approach from him. He is a great team man who would put the team ahead of personal glory. Virat has made a public statement stating his willingness to give Rayudu a fair run of games before the World Cup to help him prosper in that role.
However, Virat Kohli has previously made quick u-turns after backing Rahul and Rahane for the number 4 spot and it remains to be seen if he ends up adopting a more patient approach with Rayudu.
Third Fast Bowler
In 50 overs cricket, India's two good World Cup runs in overseas conditions were in 2003 and 2015, and one common theme across these competitions was the success of one of the openers (Sachin Tendulkar in 2003 and Shikhar Dhawan in 2015) and the wicket-taking spree of their fast bowlers (49 wickets combined from Srinath -Zaheer - Nehra in 2003 and 48 wickets combined from Shami - Umesh - Mohit Sharma in 2015).
India have two very intelligent fast bowlers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, but the bowling weakens significantly in their absence. It is rightly said that bowlers win you tournaments, and to win the World Cup, India needs at least two of Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, and Khaleel Ahmed to stake a claim by performing well in the upcoming series.
With MS Dhoni playing more of a holding middle order role these days, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya have become the primary finishers in the Indian team. However, both Jadhav and Pandya are currently facing fitness concerns.
This has opened up spots for Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja to stake their claims as able backups. In fact, this could even be an opportunity for Rishabh Pant to stake a permanent claim in the middle order, given that Rayudu is still auditioning for the number 4 spot and Jadhav gets injured way too often for a player of international caliber.
P.S: There is one more smaller talking point in addition to the above three. It is Jadeja's presence as the 3rd spinner. But given that the World Cup 2019 is going to be played in England, two spinners in Kuldeep and Chahal are going to be sufficient. Therefore, it is unlikely that India will lose sweat over the bowling form of Jadeja in the ODIs.