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Australia's thrashing of India shines a light on papered over cracks

Rishabh Pant

Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant currently occupy the Indian middle order. Make no mistake, they are fine players but are wet behind the ears and that has shown on multiple occasions now.

Batting order

Agreed that KL Rahul is in the form of his life. He is looking majestic at the crease and warrants a place in the playing XI. Agreed that Shikhar Dhawan is coming off an injury and deserves to get back his place as per Team India's honoured protocol.

Accepted that it is a tough call to make and dropping either Dhawan or Rahul would have invited criticism from one part of the media or another. But, this is the challenge of professional sports. Virat Kohli and the team management must make up their mind in choosing one between KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan to open alongside Rohit Sharma.

It is laudable that Virat Kohli is being selfless and has pushed himself down at number 4 but it is not helping the team's cause. Despite all the talent that Rahul and Dhawan have, Kohli is in a different league. If he is at the crease, he can control the pace of the game and set it up for the team to go hammer and tongs in the last 10 overs.

It is therefore not ideal to fix one problem by creating another. KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan might have added 121 runs for the second wicket in Mumbai but the partnership came off 136 deliveries. It is understandable that both are, in a way, playing for their place and hence are a bit tentative when Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar were bowling in tandem.

But, at least one of them, should have gone a bit harder, given that the pitch in Mumbai was a good one for batting. While Rahul's dot ball percentage was 45, Dhawan's was over 55. It has been a tried and tested template to keep churning the singles and doubles in the middle overs, but the two failed to do it in the 1st ODI.

The good thing though is that Kohli is looking to go back to batting at No 3 in the 2nd ODI. "We've had this discussion many times in the past as well, due to the way KL has been batting. We've tried to fit him into the team. Having said that, it hasn't gone our way when I have batted at no.4, so we have to see how it goes.

"At the same time, it's about giving opportunities to the other guys. People need not panic for just this one game. I think I am allowed to experiment a bit." Kohli said in the post-match press conference.

Inexperienced middle order

It is a thing of the past when India had the likes of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni in the middle order and even if the top three failed, the team had enough weapons in their arsenal to take the match forward from there on.

However, with a generational shift in the team, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant currently occupy that vital middle order. But, their inexperience has shown on several occasions now.

Iyer, who had done the good job in the last few games has picked up this knack of throwing his wicket away in the last 4-5 games. Pant has been inconsistent for a long time. You can understand why the team management is so intent on him. A couple of shots that he played in the 1st ODI were jaw-dropping but there is more to an ODI than that. You need to be consistent and that is something the team management will have to consider.

One bowler short

By going in with just five bowling options, Team India did not do themselves a great service. When Aaron Finch and David Warner begun to up the ante, skipper Virat Kohli did not have too many options to play with.

It did not help that Ravindra Jadeja was one of the five bowling options. The left arm spinner is a great entity to have in Test cricket. However, in limited-overs, he becomes a bit too one-dimensional. Especially when the ball is not turning, he does not have enough options to fall back on and struggles to contain. Wicket taking has always been a problem with him in white-ball cricket.

Lack of quality oppositions

India have faced South Africa, Bangladesh and West Indies in white-ball cricket in this home season and have come out trumps. It is to be noted that the team has faltered once against each of these oppositions, which can not boast of the same quality as that of Australia.

India did not dominate these oppositions, but they still managed to win, which kept all these cracks papered over for the last few months. However, with a considerable step up in quality with Australia coming to their shores, these papers have been blown away and the wide open cracks in India's white-ball setup are there for everyone to see.

Can Kohli's boys turn it around in a matter of a couple of days? Probably yes.

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