'He had a great run in the West Indies and won the man of the series award. He can come and take up that role any time. We have got guys who can take on the role and perform well.'
India vice-captain Rohit Sharma on Friday hinted that Ajinkya Rahane could be the one replacing his regular opening partner Shikhar Dhawan, who will miss the first three ODIs against Australia due to personal reasons.
Dhawan has been released from the team to attend to his unwell wife, ruling him out of the first three ODIs of the five-match series starting in Chennai on September 17.
"We have great bench strength. Of course, the absence of Shikhar will be felt. The kind of form he was in of late, he had a big role to play in the team's recent achievements. Right from the Champions Trophy till the last tour of Sri Lanka, he has had impactful performances for the team. But, we have got a few guys to replace him," Rohit said.
"Ajinkya (Rahane) is one of them. He had a great run in the West Indies and won the man of the series award. He can come and take up that role any time. We have got guys who can take on the role and perform well," he added.
Asked if a change of partners would require a change in gameplan for him, Rohit said, "The partner doesn't matter, to be honest. It's what the conditions have to offer, what sort of pitch you are playing in. At the end of the day you have to give your team a good start."
"If I see someone struggling at the other end, I will have to take up the role and if they see I'm struggling, they will take up that role. That's the planning we have in our set up."
To a question on the role of KL Rahul, who played in the middle-order in Sri Lanka but started as an opener, Rohit said there is no ambiguity on his position.
"I think both the coach and captain have clearly spoken about roles each individual had to play. Before the start of Sri Lanka our, the captain said he is looking at KL (Rahul) as a No.4 batsman.
"Ajinkya opened in the West Indies. I guess that could be the option. Having said that, when you have this kind of versatility in the team, it gives the captain and coach a little bit of relief that these guys can take up any position they are offered," he added.
Rohit said the players' position on the line-up depends solely on the team's requirements.
"You will have to play according to the team dynamics, whatever the team requires. That's how I became an opener because the team wanted me to open at that point," he explained.
Rohit, who has a particularly good record against Australia, said he wanted to perform well against all teams but he feels happy to perform against the top teams.
"I want to have the same kind of performance against all the opposition I play. Somehow I have really managed well against these guys. Australia are a very strong opposition and it makes me feel good," he noted.
The controversies that surfaced in the Test series between the two teams earlier this year is in complete contrast to the low-key build-up to the ODI tour. Rohit said both the teams are aggressive but they would look to play in the best spirit of the game.
"I mean we have to see once the tournament starts. We have to play in the spirit of the game. Both teams are aggressive in nature. Spirit of the game always needs to be there and there has to be a line which needs to be drawn.
"We all know as professional cricketers we shouldn't cross limits. A lot of these guys play enough cricket to understand that. But we all want to play aggressive cricket and come at each other very hard."
He said having two wrist spinners -- Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav -- in the team is good as there is an element of mystery about them.
"I kind of look at them as mystery spinners. You never know what's coming out of their hand. The captain is comfortable and quite happy to get them into the fray. They can get crucial breakthroughs we look forward to in the middle part of the game.
"That is what happened in Sri Lanka. Someone like Chahal, who got an opportunity in the first game -- their openers were going well and he got us a breakthrough.
"Again Kuldeep did it in the West Indies when he played. Even when we are facing them in the nets, we don't know what is going to come," Rohit added.
The stylish Mumbai batsman, who was appointed vice-captain of the ODI team ahead of the Sri Lanka series, complemented skipper Virat Kohli's style of functioning.
"It was happening before as well. The average age of the team is about 26-27 and we have all played together. There was never a thing where Virat as a captain has not gone to anyone and spoken about it.
"Whether someone has come new into the team, he wouldn't mind going up to him and seeking his advice. It's official that I am the vice-captain, so I have to be around and complement him. The other guys in the team will always be backing him whenever he required," Rohit pointed out.
Image: Ajinkya Rahane
Photograph: WICB Media