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West Indies ODIs a chance for India's bench to prove its strength

Who opens with Shikhar Dhawan? What does the middle order look like? India have some decisions to make for the first ODI against West Indies on Friday

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Will Deepak Hooda get a chance to take his superb T20 form into the 50-over format?  •  Sportsfile/Getty Images

Will Deepak Hooda get a chance to take his superb T20 form into the 50-over format?  •  Sportsfile/Getty Images

Two days after India won the ODI series in England on Sunday, several members of that squad have travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean for another 50-over contest beginning this Friday. But there's no Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah - all of whom have been rested - while KL Rahul is still on the road to recovery after his hernia surgery.
What that means is several players who are usually on the bench will get a chance to show off what they can do. Coach Rahul Dravid and stand-in captain Shikhar Dhawan have some decisions to make ahead of the first ODI against West Indies in Trinidad.
Who opens with Dhawan?
Ishan Kishan is being groomed as India's first choice back-up opener and wicketkeeper. He did not play the ODI series in England because Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were reunited, but Kishan is the frontrunner to open in Rohit's absence.
If Kishan opens with Dhawan, India will have two left-hand batters at the top. If they want a left-right combination, then Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shubman Gill are options.
Gaikwad has not yet played an ODI but he has prolific numbers in 50-over domestic cricket: an average of 54.73 and a strike rate of 100 in 63 innings. Towards the end of 2021, Gaikwad scored 603 runs with four centuries in five innings for Maharashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Those runs came at a strike rate of 113.
Gill, on the other hand, has played three ODIs, the last of which was in Australia in December 2020. That match was also the last List A game that Gill played, so he does not have recent match practice in the 50-over format and this is his first ODI call-up in 18 months. Most recently, Gill scored 483 runs at a strike rate of 132.32 as an opener for Gujarat Titans during their title-winning campaign in IPL 2022.
What does the middle order look like?
Suryakumar Yadav is the frontrunner for one of the middle-order spots, which leaves Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Sanju Samson and possibly Gill competing for two or three places.
Shreyas' stocks have dipped since he returned from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for six months last year. Teams have begun to target him with the short delivery, and he's now behind Suryakumar in the pecking order for limited-overs cricket. Shreyas played only the first of three ODIs in England, and lost his place in the XI once Kohli recovered from a groin niggle. Now with Kohli rested once again, it's likely that Shreyas will slot back in at No. 3.
Samson has been around for ages but he's played only one ODI: he scored a run-a-ball 46 on debut in Sri Lanka last year. The perception is that Samson has not been a consistent batter, but he hasn't had a consistent run of opportunities either. Most recently, he played one T20I on the tour of Ireland and smashed 77 off 42 balls. If he gets a chance in this series, Samson will be desperate to put together a good run of scores.
Who are India's all-round options?
Hooda made his ODI debut as a middle-order batter against West Indies earlier this year, and has since been part of India's limited-overs plans. He had a breakout IPL season - 451 runs - largely batting at No. 3 for Lucknow Super Giants, and then scored a T20I century at that position in Ireland.
With Hardik and Pant rested for this series, Hooda could play a role lower down the order, along with one of the left-arm spinners Ravindra Jadeja or Axar Patel. While he isn't a big turner of the ball, Hooda can be accurate with his part-time offspin as his economy rate of 4.45 in List A cricket suggests.
While India have a few spin allrounders to choose from, Shardul Thakur is the only seam-bowling allrounder in the squad.
What about the bowling attack?
India could play Jadeja and Thakur at Nos 7 and 8 to strengthen their lower-order batting, and with Yuzvendra Chahal as the first-choice spinner, that leaves two slots for specialist fast bowlers. Mohammed Siraj is a frontrunner for one of those places, leaving India a choice between Arshdeep Singh, Prasidh Krishna or Avesh Khan for that final spot.
Arshdeep had a niggle that kept him out of the England ODIs, while Prasidh took only two wickets in the three games. Both Prasidh and Avesh offer pace and the ability to hit hard lengths and extract bounce even on good batting surfaces.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo