The problem of plenty, or plenty of problems for Virat Kohli & Co?
How will Kohli reshape his squad?
DHARAMSHALA: The washout here in the series opener gives Virat Kohli two extra days to think over the best way to go about reshaping India's squad ahead of what the captain has termed "the next milestone", next year's T20 World Cup. The washout also means one less game to experiment on the road to Australia. The series in the West Indies offered a glimpse of the new direction but almost nothing is set in stone when it comes to this squad, so the tinkering options are limitless...
Shikhar Dhawan's form
It's not a certainty that Dhawan will walk out to open with Rohit Sharma in every T20 game. On match day, coach Ravi Shastri had breakfast with Shikhar Dhawan and tweeted a photograph of the two. Dhawan doesn't look his usual 'Gabbar' self in the frame. Since being dropped from the Tests, Dhawan's form is under scrutiny every time he walks out to bat. He hasn't had the best luck of late, being injured in the World Cup and having a poor run since his return in the Caribbean: he averaged 19 in the three ODIs with a highest of 36, and only 9 in the three T20Is, at a 96.42 strike rate and a highest of 23 in Lauderhill. Dhawan is a proven matchwinner but a foot in the door may be all KL Rahul needs.
Shreyas Iyer or Manish Pandey?
Who is the better middle-order fit? Iyer's 41-ball 65 in a crisis situation at the Queen's Park Oval ODI, a knock embellished with counter-attacking swag and 5 sixes, has brought him into the T20I frame too. Pandey batted at No. 5 in the Caribbean recently, behind Rishabh Pant, and has got way more opportunities than Iyer in T20Is: 31 compared to Iyer's 6 matches. Twenty-four of Pandey's 31 matches have resulted in India wins, and he averages 39.20 with a strike rate of 121.5 in these games. A fair to middling record, one might say. Iyer's T20I record isn't earth-shattering either: an average of 16.6 from 5 innings and a highest of 30. But he is in form, so can he push Pant down the order and claim the No. 4 spot? Or, if he plays in place of Pandey, will he be a failsafe if Pant flops again? This leads directly to the next issue.
Will No. 4 Pant continue flirting with India's patience?
Everyone knows Rishabh Pant is the 'next big thing.' But when exactly is 'next? The 42-ball 65 in the Providence T20I, which fashioned India's 7-wicket win in early August, is hopefully a pointer to the future. "He has to make sure he applies himself. It's about winning and finishing games," Kohli said then. "If he plays like this more regularly, we will see his potential shine." It was a not-so-veiled missive to Pant to bring his 'A' game every time.
The billion-dollar MSD question
Right now, the MSD issue is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Is he in the frame for next year's T20 World Cup? If not, why doesn't someone say so? Virat Kohli's recent cryptic utterances on how 'valuable' MSD will be as long as he makes himself 'available' was neither here nor there.
Can new spin-bowling all-rounders be effective with the ball?
Kohli wants the tail to contribute solidly with the bat, so a bevy of finger-spinning bowling all-rounders and one leggie in Rahul Chahar is the new mantra. But can they be as effective with the ball as the 'Kulcha' combine? Kuldeep Yadav is the third highest-wicket in T20Is for India over the past year, behind Krunal Pandya and Khaleel Ahmed, and has the best strike rate of 13. Is it fair to dump him because he can't bat? Chahal has been less effective, while Washington Sundar, with solid performances in the Powerplays, is the spin flavour of the season. Results will dictate which way India go on this.
Who are Bumrah's pace partners?
Bumrah will walk into this squad when Kohli wants, but who will be the others? Bhuvneshwar? Navdeep Saini? Both? Will Deepak Chahar be effective in Australia? Can Khaleel raise his game when it matters? And does a one-size-fits-all pace line-up actually work in T20Is? There are many variables here for Kohli and Shastri to work with but luckily they have the arsenal at their disposal.