India’s white-ball tour of West Indies is all about a golden chance for the backup players to show their mettle. The star players like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and a few others are not a part of the Indian cricket team’s latest Caribbean venture. It has opened up a few spots in the XI and there are multiple candidates. In this space, we check different combination possibilities for India ahead of the first ODI in Port of Spain.
Dhawan’s opening partner
The last time India didn’t have both Sharma and Rahul in the ODI squad was on the Sri Lanka tour in 2021. In the absence of both, Shikhar Dhawan led the side for the first time and had Prithvi Shaw as his opening partner. Shaw isn’t a part of the squad anymore that leaves India searching for Dhawan’s opening partner. There lies three options - Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shubman Gill.
In February this year, Gaikwad returned a positive Covid-19 test that allowed Ishan Kishan to play his only ODI this year. Gaikwad is yet to make his ODI debut but earmarked himself for the format with a stellar Vijay Hazare Trophy in the 2021/22 season. The right-hander amassed 603 at an average of 150.8. He notched up four hundreds in five matches. While Kishan has been the backup opener in T20Is, he has played only three ODIs as yet.
What works for Kishan is his twofold skillset as a wicketkeeping batter. If the management decides against Sanju Samson in the middle-order, Kishan will be the straightforward choice for the wicketkeeping slot and will partner Dhawan at the top.
Not to forget, Gill was ahead of everyone else in the pecking order once, making his debut in 2019. But he has not played any ODIs since December 2020. In fact, he has not played any List-A cricket since then. He is now back after 18 months but shouldn’t be neglected as a contender to open with Dhawan.
Hooda to replace Pandya?
Deepak Hooda looks set to play his third ODI at Port-of-Spain. India’s squad structure is such, that in the absence of Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant, he is the only batter who can play the whiplash strokes as a finish in the lower middle-order. Hooda has gained enough white-ball exposure this year and seems to be a clear part of India’s plans going forward.
Hence, Hooda seems to be an obvious choice at number six or seven. Although he has been used sporadically with the ball in his limited career so far, Hooda’s part-time off-spin can be a handy addition to the balance. It will provide a complete look to the spin attack which is likely to have Ravindra Jadeja as the left-arm spinner and Yuzvendra Chahal as the leg-spinner. Not to forget, West Indies have struggled against spinners in the recent past.
Many options, limited seats
Suryakumar Yadav is certain to continue in the middle-order. While Pandya’s absence clears the way for Hooda, Shreyas Iyer is likely to step in for Kohli, either at number three or number four. Jadeja will also continue as the batting all-rounder.
Going back to the question of Dhawan’s opening partner, the choice is to pick two between Kishan, Gaikwad, Gill and Samson - one as an opener and the other in the middle-order. Each one of Gaikwad, Gill and Samson are right-handers and decent batters against spin bowling which makes it even stevens between them. In all likelihood, there are minimal chances that both the wicketkeepers - Kishan and Samson - will be part of the XI.
Who forms the pace attack?
India will pick three pacers from a pool of five in their squad. Shardul Thakur may get the nod to extend batting till number eight. However, his batting form has dipped of late but he is the only seam bowling all-round option in the squad.
This leaves the management to pick two between Prasidh Krishna, Mohammad Siraj, Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh. Krishna and Siraj were both involved in the ODI series in England. Therefore, on the incumbency factor, they are front-runners for the two spots.
Both Krishna and Avesh are similar kind of bowlers that keeps the former ahead. Arshdeep, though, will provide the left-arm angle and impressed immensely on his T20I debut in England. Has he fully recovered from the niggle that kept him out of the England ODIs is a different question.