There remains a big question mark over who will be India's No.4 in the World Cup
India’s 3-2 loss in the just-concluded ODI series against Australia has left the team management scratching their heads.
By the looks of it, captain Virat Kohli has a Plan A in place, but what India lack is an effective Plan B.
Following the embarrassing loss and ahead of the World Cup starting May 30, India are left facing many unanswered questions: Who will bat at No.4? Who is the third opener if Shikhar Dhawan continues to fail? Will there be a fourth specialist pace bowling option? Who is the second wicketkeeper? Has Ravindra Jadeja done enough to keep his place in the squad?
Let us look back at how the players went in the series.
Save the skipper himself (310 runs with two hundreds) and his deputy Rohit Sharma (202 runs with two fifties), the batting didn't come together on a regular basis.
Shikhar Dhawan, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar had their moments but lack of consistency hurt the team.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni as usual, was rock solid behind the stumps, something that was highlighted even more by Rishabh Pant's horrible show in the final two games.
But it was certainly telling with the absence of Dhoni in the final two games – raising doubts about Kohli’s captaincy.
In the bowling department, Kuldeep Yadav (10 wickets) was expensive but got wickets while Jasprit Bumrah (7 wickets) did have his off days.
Ravindra Jadeja will still be wondering whether three wickets from four games is good enough or not.
All this has left the team, and its fans, perplexed now that there are no more ODIs to be played before the World Cup.
Kohli, though, insists he knows his "Playing XI going into the World Cup" and only one spot requires to be discussed.
However, there remains a big question mark over who will be India's No.4 in the World Cup.
There are a few names that have been thrown in the mix with Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul being main contenders for the important spot in the batting line-up.
Given that original choice Ambati Rayudu didn't exactly score those big runs in Australia, New Zealand and now in India, there are chances of it being a floating position.
If the idea was to give KL Rahul enough chances to settle down, it didn't happen with the Bengaluru lad getting only one opportunity during the series.
The flamboyant Pant was also promoted up the order in the final ODI but failed to fire and hence is far from sealing the spot.
Kohli himself came down at No.4 to accommodate Rahul in one game without much success.
Kohli didn't indicate which is the one spot the team is looking at but it could well be a toss up between Pant and the more experienced Dinesh Karthik.
Also, with a shaky middle-order, Ajinkya Rahane’s absence was surely felt even if the team management doesn’t want to acknowledge it.
Rahane’s experience would provide India much-needed stability in the batting order.
India fans also made their choice for the spot clear when they tweeted to Kohli, asking for Rahane to be brought back into the ODI squad.
Several tweets were directed to Kohli.
One Hitesh (@hitesh_439) wrote: “If we are done experimenting with team selection, then can we get back to business and give Ajinkya Rahane a chance? Don’t we say class is permanent and form is temporary or this applies only to players like Ambathi Rayudu??”
Manjunath Hiregange (@mangaladeepa) tweeted: “I still bet on @ajinkyarahane88 for the no. 4 slot because of the England’s condition. His record is too good in those pitches. We need experienced guys.”
Former BCCI chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar had in an interview with Mumbai Mirror also voiced his support for Rahane’s.
“I feel by ignoring talented and experienced Ajinkya, the Indian think tank is doing grave injustice to him. He is a proven batsman in the English conditions and an outstanding fielder too,” Vengsarkar quoted.
Only time will tell if better sense prevails and the selectors heed this new advice.