Former India selector Sarandeep Singh reckons that the Men in Blue should stick with the experienced opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan for the T20 World Cup 2021, slated to be held in India later this year.
After the T20I series win against England, skipper Virat Kohli had expressed desire to partner Rohit at the top going into the marquee event. The duo of Kohli and Rohit opened the innings in the fifth ODI and shared a 94-run stand to script India’s series-clinching 36-run victory.
On the other hand, Dhawan was benched after the opening T20I while young Ishan Kishan was given a chance in the second and third game.
"It was surprising. He (Dhawan) did well in the IPL, he did well in Australia. Whenever he plays he performs. He is mentally very strong. Maybe they want to try out options but in my view the left-hand right-hand combination of Rohit and Dhawan is the best option for the India at World Cup," Sarandeep told PTI.
"You can't judge him on basis of one match. He did well in ODIs after that. The IPL will decide a lot of the team. There are no easy places in the team. Ishan Kishan too will need to do exceptionally well to make the team," he further remarked.
Sarandeep also urged the team management to back the wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who became India's go to pair in the middle-overs after the 2017 Champions Trophy.
"The two spinners can still do the job. They are proper spinners. Once Ravindra Jadeja is back from injury, the trio remains the best option in limited overs format," he said.
"Kuldeep, for example, has not got a lot of opportunities and seems down on confidence. He needs to be backed. Chahal was also replaced in the recent T20s against England by Rahul Chahar and did not play the following ODIs.
"Though there is a lot of competition, Chahal and Kuldeep should play together. They have still have a lot of potential," added Sarandeep, who played three Tests and five ODIs for India.
With his performances against Australia and England, Rishabh Pant has surpassed Wriddhiman Saha as the first-choice wicketkeeper in Tests and has also become the preferred option in T20Is.
"No praise will be enough for Pant. He had some fitness issues, worked on that and worked on his shot selection. If you expect a 21-year-old to play like a 30-year-old, it is tough to start with. You see Hardik (Pandya), the way he bats now with experience, same thing has been seen in Pant now in the last six months or so.
"He was out of the team which was good for him. There is a right time and right ball to hit. The way he played in Australia, it shows he has gained a lot of experience. He is picking and choosing.
"He can give you 10 years in Test cricket, Saha cannot and has become the number one choice. In ODIs, Shreyas got injured so Rishabh played. When he is back, KL should be the wicketkeeper because he has been keeping wickets for a long time and is doing a fine job," he said.
According to Sarandeep, there is no place for Krunal Pandya in the ODI team if Hardik is not bowling.
"If we talk about ODIs, if Hardik is not bowling, Krunal can't be your fifth bowler. He batted beautifully but Krunal can't give you 10 overs, he is a good T20 player but when it comes to ODIs, he doesn't have the skill to challenge the batsmen.
"So, if Krunal plays, Hardik needs to bowl. If one bowler is hit or injured there is no extra option if Hardik doesn't bowl. His workload has to be managed too but you have to play proper bowlers," said the 41-year-old former off-spinner.
There have been talks that India could try and see how the split captaincy works out with Kohli remaining the Test captain and relinquishing the post for Rohit in white-ball cricket.
Sharing his two cents on the same, Sarandeep said: "Spilt captaincy is needed when your captain is not performing but he (Kohli) is the only player to average more than 50 in all formats. If he isn't performing in one format you can take the leadership pressure off him and give it to someone else.
"Just because he has not won an IPL you can't remove him from India captaincy. He is also the fittest player and captain. Rohit is there to lead the side in his absence but there is no reason to replace Virat."
(With PTI inputs)