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Kohli's form, Iyer vs Suryakumar, and Pandya's ODI return on India's discussion table

Is Prasidh Krishna's hit-the-deck style the way to go? Talking points ahead of India's three-match ODI series against England

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Virat Kohli has not scored a century in international cricket since November 2019  •  AFP/Getty Images

Virat Kohli has not scored a century in international cricket since November 2019  •  AFP/Getty Images

It is entirely possible the 2019 ODI World Cup final still feels recent, but the fact is that there is another 50-over World Cup upon us next year. While the build-up to it may still be muted, India, like many others, have some work to do. The three-match series against England beginning on Tuesday at The Oval will provide an opportunity for a few players to set things right, while at the same time being an audition for the others.
Can Kohli banish talks of a decline?
The numbers are out in the open. It is likely that even the most disconnected fan of the game knows a century has been loading for close to three years. But it hasn't entirely been doom and gloom for Virat Kohli the batter.
Adelaide 2020, Chennai 2021, The Oval 2021, and Cape Town 2022 are a few shining examples. Ever since he gave up the captaincy last year, every innings has brought with it that much more scrutiny.
Even for someone as zoned out as Kohli from external chatter, he is unlikely to forget that the count of century-less innings in international cricket now stands at 77. His struggles have been analysed threadbare, and mindset scrutinised to the extent that there has been a chorus from former players and coaches for him to take a break, which he has received in plenty; fair call to the BCCI there.
But the men who matter - Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid - have continued to back Kohli.
All said, the upcoming ODIs may be his best chance to shred talks of being on the decline and bring back that air of inevitability to his batting and hundreds, something that was commonplace when Kohli was at his peak between 2015 to 2019. For the record, he has six half-centuries in his last 11 ODI innings.
Suryakumar vs Iyer
Such stifling competition for places isn't new to Shreyas Iyer. He wasn't even a first-choice player in India's Under-19 World Cup squad in 2014. But the reality is that while he hasn't done much wrong in the opportunities he has got, his methods of handling the short ball have come under scrutiny.
Iyer was in the form of his life last year before a shoulder injury sidelined him for six months. But in the time since, he has lost his IPL captaincy, was released by a franchise that he led to their first-ever IPL final a year earlier, and then saw Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson and Deepak Hooda catch up with him as far as the middle-order stakes go.
An average of 41 and a strike rate of 97 across 24 ODI innings means he should be an automatic pick, but the competition for places is such that he will need a big score to keep someone of Suryakumar's calibre out. Suryakumar's most recent knock was an unreal T20I century on Sunday. Like Iyer, he too has cashed in on every opportunity so far in the 50-over format. This middle-order jostle is a healthy one, though.
Pandya's return to 50-overs cricket
He has returned to bowling, and has done quite well so far in T20s, but can his body tune up to the rigours of the longer format? Can he deliver ten overs if required? How will the change in format affect his workload? There are a few questions which Hardik Pandya could potentially answer in this series. He has only featured in nine ODIs since July 2019, the last of which was in Sri Lanka last year when he was part of a second-string squad led by Shikhar Dhawan.
In fact, Pandya last bowled ten overs in an ODI innings during the 2019 World Cup semi-final. So clearly, there is plenty to look forward to because the bowler in him lends India a new dimension and squad balance.
Prasidh's hit-the-deck style the way to go?
With Jasprit Bumrah being the pace spearhead and Mohammed Shami clearly still in the ODI plans, the third-seamer spot could be a juicy toss-up with a number of claimants in the ring.
There is Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj and now Arshdeep Singh. Among them, Prasidh has so far had an impressive initiation. Even on the most docile surfaces, his height and release allow him to get deliveries to rear up awkwardly on batters. Moreover, Prasidh does this at a fair clip too, at above 140 clicks. These, combined with a perfect seam that gets the ball moving both ways, make him an even more dangerous prospect on surfaces with some assistance.
Prasidh had a breakthrough ODI series earlier this year against West Indies, and is being groomed to be the kind of bowler India saw in Ishant Sharma in his early days. Of course, the 50-over format wasn't one that Ishant always favoured, but Prasidh has shown there is enough to work with if persisted.
He is just seven ODIs old but has already picked up 18 wickets at an average of 16.42, and an economy of 4.84. But England's destructive batting line-up could offer a stern test.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo