When the selectors gather tomorrow to select the team for the tour of West Indies, the big question before them will be the same one that has been unanswered for the past 2 years, who occupies the middle order slots in the limited overs side.
After a lot of experimentation, India went with Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni for the World Cup. Shankar got injured during the tournament, Kedar and DK had an underwhelming outing in England, and MS Dhoni continued to sharply divide opinions among the Indian fans.
The biggest question of all remains MS Dhoni’s spot in the middle order. It was widely expected that Dhoni will bid adieu to the international stage after the World Cup but there hasn’t been any such announcement. With his manager quashing retirement rumors yesterday, looks like Dhoni may have an eye on the T20 World Cup next year as his swan song. However, there are reports claiming that he may opt for a break and take rest during the West Indies tour, so the selectors are spared from making a tough call immediately.
Now with Dhoni likely to be “rested”, Shankar still recuperating from his toe injury, and Jadhav and DK likely to be dropped, India is going to see a new middle order in the Caribbean as they start the rebuilding process. Rishabh Pant is certain to occupy one of those slots while the race for other spots remains as open as it has been since the days of Yuvraj and Suresh Raina.
Among the contenders, Manish Pandey will be hopeful of getting recalled, the India A Captain boosted his chances with a timely hundred against West Indies A. Shreyas Iyer and Shubhman Gill have been among runs as well and will be hopeful of getting a call from the selectors. Mayank Agarwal was called up as the replacement for Shankar for some reason during the World Cup but his only chance of getting in the squad is if Dhawan isn’t deemed fit enough after his injury.
There is the option of pushing Hardik Pandya up the order as a regular Number 6 and having Jadeja as your number 7, but then the tail becomes too long with most of the Indian bowlers being genuine Number 11s.
In a relatively low key tour, this is going to be the biggest question – Will this new crop of batsmen step up and help India finally address this long standing problem of a brittle middle order?