India managed to register a comprehensive victory in their group match against West Indies in Manchester in the World Cup. India is the only unbeaten team in the tournament and would try to seal a semifinal berth by defeating England on Sunday. However, the team has not looked as dominant in their last two matches as they did during their first three matches.
A major reason for this struggle is the absence of Shikhar Dhawan from the squad. But no one has been able to score runs as prolifically as Dhawan. The left-right combination whenever Dhawan was at the crease with a right-hander provided the team with the perfect balance which helps unsettle bowlers.
The only day Mitchell Starc really looked uncomfortable in the tournament so far was during the match against India. The top wicket-taker of the previous World Cup and also the leading wicket-taker of this World Cup bowled consistently down the leg side during his 10-over spell. The continuous rotation of strike was one of the reasons for Starc's erratic line of bowling.
A left-right combination might be the need of the hour for India, as they have been struggling to pass the 300-mark recently. The opposition bowlers in the last two matches have been successfully able to bowl many dot balls for this reason only. The bowler and the fielding captain do not need to set their line and length and fielding positions respectively if all batsmen are right handed.
In their current squad, India have only three left-handed batsmen - with two of them being specialist spinners. That leaves only Rishabh Pant - the player who replaced Dhawan in the squad - as the specialist left-handed batsman in the squad. While Rishabh Pant does not have a great ODI record, he might have a good chance during the initial overs when most of the fielders are inside the circle.
Vijay Shankar is the only batsman who has failed to find any substantial form for India so far. A batsman like Rishabh Pant can replace Vijay Shankar. While Pant is more attacking and hence vulnerable, he has two overseas Test centuries while Shankar does not have too many big scores in his international career.
Pant might even be more effective as an opening batsman, which would mean pushing KL Rahul to number four. Virat Kohli would not want to disturb a settled opening combination, so keeping Pant flexible could be the best bet for Kohli. India need a batsman to seal that number four spot, and really fast.
Including Rishabh Pant in the playing 11 at this stage will be a gamble. But if it pays off, the results are less likely to be anywhere near mediocre.
Also read – World cup winners list