Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja as specialist batsmen
An overwhelming positive for Team India from the India-Australia series has been the evolution of Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja as specialist batsmen. While both of them have always been destructive finishers in the death overs, their heightened sense of responsibility when the top- and middle-order collapsed impressed me most.
But Hardik Pandya at No. 6 and Ravindra Jadeja at No. 7, on most occasions, will face at most, a few deliveries during the death overs. A higher position will allow them to face a few deliveries to get their eye in, before going hammer-and-tongs at the fag end of the innings. Jadeja and Pandya are match-winners and can significantly impact the result if they get better opportunities.
Extra Batsman or Extra Bowler - What does Team India need more?
India has been blessed with a plethora of top-quality pace bowlers in this era. Bumrah is the undeniable leader of India's pace battery. Mohammad Shami, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan are the other pacers staking a claim for a place in the side. A significant name missing from the list owing to injury is Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Once Kumar is fit, he will be a prime contender as well.
Another facet of Kumar's cricket is his ability to chip in with the bat. With ODI cricket gradually leaning towards players with more than one competency, we must ponder on what suits India better - a batsman who can bowl or a bowler who can bat. The latter seems more prudent, considering India's formidable batting order. Further, the addition of Kumar will facilitate specialization within the bowling line-up in terms of the phase at which different bowlers will bowl. On the flip side, playing a batsman like Shreyas Iyer is expected to expose India's weak-link - the sixth bowling option.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it". While this argument is justified, India is probably sleeping on the opportunity to further strengthen its side on the premise that its current playing XI has been dishing out stellar performances - a lack of foresight.
Iyer has been fantastic playing the role assigned to him at No. 4. But his inclusion pales in comparison to the potential impact that Rahul, Pandya, and Jadeja can if they bat higher.
Also, India can play an additional bowler if Iyer is not a part of the playing XI. Shreyas Iyer is certain to be a vital cog in India's batting order for years to come with the batting trio of Rohit, Dhawan, and Kohli gradually aging into the twilight of their careers. However, at present, I see brighter prospects on the inclusion of a bowling all-rounder at the expense of Iyer, for which Iyer is at absolutely no fault.