Dhoni's dilemma

Dhoni's dilemma

The clock on the ICC website tells me there are 128 days to go for the World Cup as I write this. That is a long time and there are many battles to be fought before that.

You need to win those, but by now, every team will have one eye on what their best combination should be in Australia and New Zealand.

Those aren't necessarily conflicting objectives though and India will have both in front of them as they play the one-dayers against the West Indies.

On the face of it, it would seem India won't learn much from these games and, while the West Indies haven't done a lot to suggest they can hit the high notes in Indian conditions, over-confidence has often been the first step towards a disjointed performance.

Much like the stars of their past did in England in the '70s and '80s, this lot of players play a lot of cricket in India.

They will play well and indeed, the harder they play, the better it will be for India for these are the last few one-day games India get before the World Cup squad assembles in Australia in early January for the tri-series.

And so India need to find the right people for three key roles over the next fortnight. In a largely settled side India need to be certain of who opens the batting, who takes the new ball (or new balls really!) and who bowls at the death.

There is a school of thought that there is a fourth concern, the performance of the spinners in overseas conditions, but that is a by-product of the way the new ball bowlers bowl.

The first of those seems to have been decided and I believe that is the right decision. M.S. Dhoni thinks Ajinkya Rahane is a better player at the top of the order and Rohit Sharma more valuable in the middle and on issues of ability and temperament both, that is the right call.

It might seem to consign to the bin an investment in Rohit Sharma as an opener for almost two years but, like with your portfolio, if a better option comes along you divest.

Rahane is more compact and more composed at the top, Rohit can be explosive at the end. It was an easy decision to take especially after Rahane's emergence as a classy all-conditions cricketer. I think it might also have been prompted by the indifferent form Shikhar Dhawan is in.

One opener needs to be solid and, as Rahane showed in England, he can be that and go on to get a run-a-ball century.

I like the fact too that the decision has been taken early so Rahane can start imagining himself in that role. He is a studious, thoughtful young man and, much like his mentor, it would be just like him to prepare assiduously for it.

It also means that Rohit Sharma will compete with Ambati Rayudu who has done nothing wrong since being given a middle-order spot.

Rayudu doesn't have the aura, or the blazing shot-making skills of those on either side of him in the order but he has got runs every time he has been asked to bat. He got in twice in England and got 64 not out and 53 batting second each time. He is in there by right.

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