From KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav, India would be looking at at least two who can be the middle men. The job of these two would be linking the top-order with the finishers, likely to be MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya. After Asia Cup, India have 11 ODIs to finalise their combination for the World Cup.
By all means, they should be looking at this tournament to zero in on the two. Rahul will be one of the strong contenders, given the fact that he can also be used as opener. This leaves India with a choice between Rayudu, Pandey, Karthik and Jadhav. Among the four, none have made strong claims to seal a spot. Not in the picture a year back when Pandey and Jadhav were searching for consistency, Rayudu is back in the mix after a stellar IPL.
“It was frustrating to miss out on the England tour. But I’m happy that I could clear the yoyo test and get picked for the Asia Cup. To be very honest, I haven’t thought about it (competition for middle-order spots) or looked at it as competition. It is just an opportunity to express myself and I don’t want to put more pressure on myself by thinking about these. I feel age doesn’t matter as long as you are fit,” said Rayudu, who is the senior-most among those aiming to seal a middle-order berth.
Through the course of the Asia Cup, India will also be up against a familiar foe – left-arm speedsters. This batting unit has struggled against this variety. It is with this thought that India have hired Nuwan Seneviratne, a former Sri Lankan firstclass cricketer, as a left-arm throwdown specialist for the tournament. It won’t be surprising if his contract is extended till the World Cup. From Rohit Sharma to Virat Kohli — who is not part of Asia Cup squad — all have struggled against leftarm pacers. With the likes of Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Usman Khan in Pakistan’s line-up, India are wary of this factor.
It also highlights how the Indian think-tank is addressing the concerns in their bid to put their best foot forward at next year’s World Cup. Though Rayudu revealed the team is not thinking too far ahead, he said, “We are preparing in whatever way we can (on playing left-arm pacers). A throwdown specialist has joined us and hopefully, we will be prepared to face them because it is only going to leave us more prepared.”