The struggles of middle order batsmen and the absence of a genuine all-rounder have been a worry for India over the past few months.
Their problems were much visible in the game at Gabba which India lost by four runs (DLS). The margin of defeat doesn’t show the puzzle Kohli and management has to resolve before they head to the second T20 in Melbourne.
India opted to include Krunal Pandey instead of Chahal- a strategy which worked well for them against the West Indies. Pandya’s inclusion was intended for bringing in more balance to the squad and add depth to the middle order batting. However, it back-fired them at Gabba on Wednesday in the first T20 game.
Krunal Pandya was expensive in his four-over spell giving away 55 runs and couldn’t support Dinesh Karthik at the other end in the last couple of overs while they were chasing the target. India may think they missed the services of Chahal considering the way Kuldeep and Adam Zampa bowled in the match. Both the spinners were economical and picked up crucial wickets for their teams.
The selection may have been a dilemma for the team management as well. India possesses a risk of having a weak lower order batting with the inclusion of Chahal as the fifth bowler. The option is open for Kohli in MCG, however, which will demand the middle order to perform well. KL Rahul and Pant may have to bat long if India decides to go ahead with five premier bowlers. Also, they lack the option of a part-time bowler as none of their five top-order batsmen bowls these days.
The spinners helped India win the T20 series in England which may tempt Kohli to make a change in the playing eleven to bring in Chahal. With only Bhuvaneswar Kumar as a handy batsman in the lower order, the top six will have extra pressure to play safe and keep wickets in hand for the death overs. A batting collapse early in the innings will expose the long tail which will make things a lot easier for Australia.
India doesn’t have the luxury of time to sort out things before they head to the second T20 match with just one day in between the games. For now, the questions will remain as it is – Will Kohli retain the same squad? Will Chahal or Washington Sundar make it into the playing eleven at the cost of Khaleel Ahmed or Krunal Pandey?