Four questions for India to address before the series ends

Agarkar: Rayudu on thin ice with Vijay batting well (3:37)

Ajit Agarkar, Brad Hodge and Raunak Kapoor look ahead to the Mohali game, where lots of runs and some changes to the India XI are likely (3:37)

In an ideal world, India would have liked to secure the series 3-0 in Ranchi and then fiddle with their combination. But now, they will have to juggle between winning the series and giving World Cup aspirants enough game-time. India have all of two ODIs to identify their most balanced XI, but they have quite a few questions to answer.

What's wrong at the top of the order?

Shikhar Dhawan's lean patch keeps getting leaner: since the Asia Cup last year, he has scored only 377 runs in 16 innings at an average of 25.13 and strike-rate of 80.04. Rapid pace and offspin contributed to his downfall in the home series against West Indies and then in New Zealand.

While he did hit back-to-back half-centuries in New Zealand, those runs came on relatively flat pitches. And the trend of falling to skiddy pace and offspin has seeped into the Australia series too.

The pitch is Mohali is no longer the quickest and bounciest is the country - Rohit Sharma shellacked his third double-hundred in the last ODI at this venue - but the cold weather might assist the quicks, which means Dhawan has to be on guard. Or will India rest Dhawan and give KL Rahul a game?

Rahul showed signs of his explosive best during the T20I series against Australia, but hasn't played an ODI since September 2018 - and has played a mere three ODIs since the start of 2018. Rahul also tends to struggle to start against the old ball, so you can't quite throw him into the middle-order mix.

Rohit, too, has misfired in this limited-overs series against Australia, which has applied more pressure on the middle order.

Is Rayudu's No.4 spot safe?

Power-hitting in the middle order is the key towards topping 300 in one-day cricket. Ask England. They've built their limited-overs success around their electric middle order.

Ambati Rayudu is nether a power-hitter nor efficient at rotating the strike. He is caught somewhere in between and has come under the spotlight after three low scores in this series. He has particularly found it difficult to score against Adam Zampa's legspin and Pat Cummins' swing at speeds close to 150kph.

Vijay Shankar has been more adept at rotating the strike in the middle overs, but bumping him to No.4 could be too big a gamble ahead of the World Cup. And if they do gamble, what will that do the confidence of Rayudu, who had Kohli's backing not too long ago?

How will Pant fit into the middle order?

MS Dhoni being rested for the last two ODIs has opened the door for Rishabh Pant. India's chief selector MSK Prasad had previously said that Kohli was keen on having a left-handed batsman to provide the chance for a left-right combination.

Pant recently batted at No. 5 for India A against England Lions and even finished a chase of 222 with an unbeaten 76-ball 73 in Thiruvananthapuram. Pant is more known for his big-hitting than rotation of strike, so will he bat at No.5 for the senior team as well? Or will India take a punt on Pant batting at No. 4 in a bid to give him more game-time?

He is highly rated by the management - having impressed both behind the stumps and in front of it in Australia - but has very little time to make his case for World Cup selection.

Can you count on Vijay Shankar's bowling?

Vijay's clean hitting has made heads turn, but his bowling is more serviceable than spectacular, despite that double-wicket last over in Nagpur. So, you can't expect him to bowl 10 overs.

But, on what was a proper road in Ranchi, Vijay showed good control with the ball, often bowling wicket-to-wicket and to his fields. He came away with 0 for 44 in eight overs, helping India regain some lost ground after Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch had raised a century stand.

Is there a possibility for India to play both Vijay and Hardik Pandya in the World Cup XI when the latter returns from injury? It will depend on the conditions, but playing two allrounders will of course lend immense depth to the side. And both of them can make things happen with their fielding too.