The MSK Prasad-led new selection panel will pick the squad for the 4th and the 5th ODI against New Zealand, and here are possible changes that might be on the cards.
After a comprehensive win in the Test series, the Indian ODI team demolished New Zealand in the first ODI where they chased down a paltry target of 191 in the 34th over. However, the Kiwis, finally, decided to show up in the 2nd ODI as captain Kane Williamson led from the front to post a challenging total of 242 on a difficult pitch. Hardik Pandya and Umesh Yadav fought back for India towards the end after a terrible start to the chase by the top order, but, eventually, they fell short by 6 runs.
As we speak, the 3rd ODI in Mohali is underway, and the outcome of this game is likely to play a big role in deciding the squad for the next two matches. If India manages to restore their dominance then the selectors might decide to give chances to some of the lesser-known names, else, they are likely to recall the established stars.
In the current squad, openers KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were missing at the top due to fitness concerns, while the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Mohammed Shami were rested to keep them fresh for next Test series.
Current squad: MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Mandeep Singh, Manish Pandey, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Amit Mishra
Among these bunch of players, Mandeep Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jayant Yadav, and Suresh Raina have not featured in the first 3 ODIs. Raina has been struggling with a fever and is likely to remain unavailable for the remaining part of the series.
Openers – the return of Shikhar Dhawan?
KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan's fitness remain causes for concern. The selectors are unlikely to take any chances with Rahul at the moment, although Dhawan might return to the squad. The southpaw, who was injured in the Kolkata Test, was expected to remain on the sidelines for three weeks. With the fourth ODI starting on November 26, he would have had enough time to recuperate.
Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma have been opening the innings in Rahul and Dhawan's absence and they have not able to score big so far. Sharma's form, in particular, looks questionable having scored 14 and 15 respectively in the first two matches. Rahane has looked more solid, but he has failed to convert his starts into an innings of any significance. While Rohit Sharma continues to have the backing of the selectors and both the captains, it is likely that Dhawan might replace Rahane in the 3rd ODI at the top of the order.
There is also the possibility of calling up Karun Nair into the squad, especially, with Suresh Raina's place being vacant in the squad.
Middle-order – Manish Pandey to make way?
There aren't too many places up for the grabs in the middle-order. Kohli and Dhoni remain untouchable, while Kedar Jadhav has performed admirably with the bat and the ball in the first two matches. The all-rounder has picked up three wickets and a quickfire knock of 41 in the 2nd ODI, albeit in a losing cause. He should be persisted with for the rest of the series. Manish Pandey, however, could lose his place. The talented yet extremely inconsistent right-hander has scored only 36 runs in two innings so far. Suresh Raina remains unavailable, but Rahane could drop down the batting order with Dhawan replacing him at the top. The more unlikely option would be to replace him with Mandeep Singh in the middle-order. The Punjab-born batsman has played some good innings during India A tour of Australia along with impressive shows with the ODI squad in Zimbabwe. He will also add another bowling option for Dhoni.
Bowlers – The big guns are unlikely to be rolled out
Indian bowlers have performed well so far in the series, despite missing some of the key players. In Ashwin's absence, Amit Mishra has picked up 6 wickets in two games. Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya decimated the New Zealand top order in the first ODI, while Jasprit Bumrah produced a stunning spell in the 2nd ODI. Even Kedar Jadhav has chipped in with 3 wickets.
Axar Patel has not been as effective, though, and his place might come under threat. Both the wickets at Ranchi and Visakhapatnam, where the last two ODIs will be played, are expected to favor the batsmen. These are high-scoring grounds, and with the series far from being decided, the selectors might opt for a bit of experience in the form of Ravindra Jadeja, who will also strengthen the batting lineup. However, the likes of Ashwin, Shami, and Bumrah are likely to be rested once again.
Likely squad for the 4th and the 5th ODIs: MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Mandeep Singh, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Kedar Jadhav, Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Amit Mishra