Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik might have eased some pressure off the team management by stepping in to take over two of the responsibilities manned by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who’s now ruled out of the tri-series owing to a hamstring pull. But with Dhoni’s replacement Ambati Rayudu only expected to join the team for the Trinidad leg of the tournament, India will have no choice but to include the only specialist batsman in the reserves, Murali Vijay, for the match against Sri Lanka on Tuesday. But therein lies a quandary.
n an ideal scenario, Vijay would have come in at his favoured spot alongside Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order with Rohit Sharma dropping back into the middle-order where he originally belongs. But such has been the success of the Mumbai-Delhi combo, who average 64.28 in seven innings as a partnership, against the new ball that any team would think twice before breaking up the two, especially after Rohit top-scored with 60 in the previous match.
Even skipper Dhoni had hinted that the Dhawan-Rohit combination had the potential to be a long-term option at the top of the order based on the impressive start they had made. That would mean having Vijay in at No.5 and pushing Suresh Raina down to No.6. The sticky wickets at Sabina Park, not to forget the lack of pace in the Sri Lankan attack, will make batting more difficult and will not at all be suited to Vijay’s style of batting. Probably his best chance here might be against the harder new balls. And Kohli might just go with Rohit down the order as a short-term alternative before Rayudu arrives in Port of Spain.
Vijay has been a serious hit in the T20 format, scoring consistently and briskly for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. And of late he’s also come of age as a Test opener. But 50-over cricket has always proved a tricky challenge for him, not just because he averages just 17.81 in 11 matches with a highest of 31, but also because he never quite managed to find the right tempo during his brief stint in ODI cricket.