Predicting India's middle-order for Asia Cup
With Asia cup just around the corner, India will be looking to defend the title.
Most of the Indian team looks settled. India's top order (Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli) has been doing the bulk of scoring in the past few series. MS Dhoni will be the wicketkeeper of the Indian team at least till the World Cup'19. The bowling side is also pretty much settled with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah handling the pace.
The spin-twin 'Kulcha' (Yuzuvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav) will the spinners. India has a decent backup in the pace department with the likes of Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Siddharth Kaul and Deepak Chahar. These might come in handy in swinging conditions. Hardik Pandya is going to be the seaming all-rounder. So if we count the number of players already settled in the playing 11 it comes out to be 9 (3 top order, 1 wicketkeeper, 2 spinners, 2 seamers and 1 all-rounder). This makes 2 positions up for grab in the middle order.
I think MS should bat at #5 since his finishing abilities are not the same as they were in 2011 and are on a constant wane. So we have the #4 and #6 spot puzzle which needs to be resolved before the Asia Cup.
As of now, India doesn't have a settled and reliable middle order. They have tried a few players like KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and Suresh Raina and none of them has been able to confirm their places yet.
Let us look at the options India has for the middle order spots.
#7 KL Rahul
Rahul has just played 12 matches and scored a century in his debut match. He has a fifty to his name too. Both these knocks were played while he opened the batting. If you look at the six matches where he has batted in the middle order, he has just scored 37 in 5 innings at a very low average of 9.25 with 17 being the highest.
Though these stats are too less to comment on his playing style, I feel he is not the kind of player who can play in the middle order. He likes to play his shots and is a sort of player who can utilise the power plays to their maximum. India might be considering him for a middle-order spot, but I would keep him as a backup opener who can replace Shikhar and Rohit if required. Another option is to play him at number 3 and Virat at number 4, but I don't think India would want its best batsman to change his batting position.