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KL Rahul, Manish Pandey failures keep a middle-order spot open ahead of T20s vs Australia

KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer will battle it out for a spot in the Indian middle-order for the T20s against Australia, starting November 21 in Brisbane.

Written by: India TV Sports Desk, New Delhi [ Published on: November 13, 2018 10:50 IST ]
Image Source : AP

KL Rahul is yet to make an impact

India's dominating run at home continued and this time sans Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni as Rohit Sharma's men whitewashed West Indies 3-0 in the T20 series that drew to a close on Sunday.

With the Windies tour conclusion, India's home run came to an end and for the next four months. Kohli & Co. will now travel Down Under for three T20Is, four Tests and three ODIs that will end on January 18 with an ODI in Melbourne. 

Following that, Kohli-led India will travel to New Zealand to play five ODIs and three T20Is as a preparation for the upcoming World Cup in England and Wales in June next year.

India's victory against the Carrebian nation came without too much off a fuss even in the visitors' favoured format. Be it bowling, fielding or even batting for that matter. Not that India doesn't have good batsmen but the home side displaying such domination without Kohli and irregular players in the middle, tells you how badly Carlos Braithwaite's team was left wanting.

But, that's a story for another day. With India flying off to Australia for a full-tour in four days time, the focus remains on the biggest frontier under Kohli's captaincy.

With India beginning the series with the shortest format, the recurring issue of finding a reliable middle-order batter seems to have cropped up again. While the spot in ODIs seems to be have settled with Ambati Rayudu's good display in the fifty-over format, Dhoni's axe has left a spot up for grabs in the middle order.

It was expected that against a depleted Windies side, the Indian batters sans Kohli will get a look in and dominate, which they did but the ones who made merry were the usual suspects in Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan. Dinesh Karthik chipped in with a valuable 31 not out in the first game and so did Krunal Pandya but the KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant failed to impress largely.

Pant did play a match-winning 38-ball 58 on Sunday to script India's six-wicket win and complete the series whitewash but his performance in the first two games and the habit of throwing his wicket away is something that will remain a concern going to Australia, where the quality of bowling will be of the highest level despite the absence of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in T20s.

Rahul and Pandey's cases are even more problematic. Neither cemented their places with a solid knock to claim a place in the XI in the first game. With Kohli coming into the side, he is likely to take the No.3 spot and that will push Rahul to 4 -- a place he hasn't excelled in whenever given the opportunity and also a spot that doesn't allow him to play freely. 

Pandey on the other hand, got to bat properly in the first game only and scored 19 off 24 balls and remained not out on 4 in the final T20I. He came out to bat at 5 in both the games but with Karthik and Pant playing their parts in the series, his place in the side is in jeopardy after a drab return.

With Shreyas Iyer waiting to stake a claim for a place in the XI and someone, who is totally capable of playing at No.4 and changing gears according to the situation, coach Ravi Shastri and Kohli will need to choose what to do with the spot when they side next takes the field at the Gabba.

One might say that it is nitpicking after a very successful series against Windies but with the Aussies waiting in the wings with a much tougher challenge ahead, small things need to be ironed out to make sure India's tour begins on a positive note against a bruised Australian team in their backyard.

India will leave for Australia on November 16 and will play the first of the three T20Is against the home side on November 21 in Brisbane.

India Squad: Virat Kohli(c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, K Khaleel Ahmed

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