After an entertaining T20 series in which India edged the visitors by a scoreline of 3-2 by winning the final match of the series, the men in blue take on England in the ODI series in Pune. The action moves away from the gigantic Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad and both the teams have named full-strength squads other than the players who have missed out due to injuries.
But the question, does India really need to play their top players in the upcoming ODI series? The top players have been in a bubble for a long time at the end of the high-pressure and gruelling Test as well as the T20I series, both of which had a greater context compared to the ODI series.
A spot in the final of the ICC World Test Championship 2021 was on the line in the 4-match test series, and India booked one of the ICC World Test Championship Final ticket. Ahead of the World Cup T20 in India later this year, the two teams which are tipped as favourites to win the trophy clashed in the shortest format for 5 matches and tried out their best combinations, and the Bharat Army thoroughly enjoyed the epic clashes and hospitality in Ahmedabad.
The ODI series, however, doesn’t have much relevance. The next major tournament, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, will be played after 30 months and the ODI Super League isn’t of much importance for the Virat Kohli-led side considering that the team has already qualified for the next World Cup by virtue of being the hosts. So how does fielding a full-strength playing XI make sense? Instead, the players who are on the periphery could easily be given an opportunity against the World Champions.
So let’s have a look at who will be the players who can be in the playing XI? Let’s start with the top-order.
Top Order: Gabbar-Hitman back, will Gill get a chance?
Rohit Sharma has already rested in the first 2 T20Is and he will be expected to play all the 3 matches in the series. The opener hasn’t played in the format since January 2020 as he missed the series in New Zealand early last year and the Australia series due to injury.
Virat Kohli mentioned in the press conference ahead of the series that Shikhar Dhawan will be partnering the deputy captain at the top and that is good news for the Indian fans. Dhawan and Rohit have been prolific at the top for India adding 4847 runs at an average of 44, and have more century partnerships(16) than half-century stands(14).
With Dhawan not in the scheme of things in Test for a couple of years and with an unimpressive performance in the recently concluded T20I series, all eyes will be on his ODI performance.
Since the start of the ODI series, Virat Kohli has played all the tests and T20Is against England. So the Indian skipper might rest in order to give the other young players a chance at the number 3 and the prime contender to replace him will be the modern superstar Shubman Gill. Gill has scored at an average of 44 in 23 innings at number 3 in the List-A format and considering the quality of his batting, he will be a like-for-like replacement for the skipper.
The Middle-order: Indian Cap for Krunal Pandya in Order!
Shreyas Iyer is all set to bat at number 4 but the debate will be open for the number 5 spot. Ideally, KL Rahul has done well at number 5 scoring at a strike rate of 114 and an average of 54 in the ODIs. However, the team management has a tendency of picking the playing XI with the influence of what the players have done in the other two formats and that might be enough for Rishabh Pant to get a place in the playing XI.
Hardik Pandya at 6 is always a good option considering his skills as a finisher and with the all-rounder starting to bowl again, he is a lock at number 6.
The race for the second all-rounder will be between Washington Sundar and Krunal Pandya. Pandya will get his ODI cap considering his Vijay Hazare trophy performances as he bowled at an economy rate of 5.3 picking 5 wickets in as many matches but it was his batting that grabbed attention. The southpaw scored 388 in 5 innings, including 2 centuries and had a Bradmanesque average of 129 in the tournament.
The Pandya brothers may be a great prospect in the long-term as well.
The Bowlers: Kuldeep gets a break, finally!
Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja will be unavailable and only Shardul Thakur might make it to the playing XI from the bowlers who played India’s last ODI in Australia.
Kuldeep Yadav isn’t considered as a key player in T20Is or Tests, but the wrist-spinner was a vital cog in India’s preparation ahead of the 2019 World Cup along with Chahal. The KulCha partnership has been broken and the duo hasn’t played a single match together since the World Cup. This series might be India’s chance to use the two leg-spinners together and observe how they fare in the middle-overs.
A series win against the number 1 ranked side and World Champions England does sound tempting. A cherry on top will be a chance to be at the helm of the ICC rankings post the series if India whitewashes the visitors. But none of them could benefit India in the long-term as much as giving opportunities to the second-choice players against the best team in the world does. It will be interesting to see whether India prefers the player in at least a couple of games in the series.