Mahendra Singh Dhoni's inability to set the pace during middle overs will remain a major cause of concern when India take on Australia in a do-or-die second ODI on Tuesday in their bid to keep the three-match series alive.
Hardik Pandya's sudden suspension on disciplinary grounds has badly affected the balance of the batting order, which was apparent during team's 34-run defeat in the opening match despite vice-captain Rohit Sharma's 22nd hundred in 50-over format.
Dhoni's 51 off 96 balls and failing to rotate the strike has brought to focus the rejigging that skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri will have to fret upon.
With Dhoni being slotted at No 5 even though vice-captain Rohit wants the veteran to bat a notch higher but cues from India's training session made it clear that the team is unlikely to tinker with the batting order.
India's batting order did come under the spotlight at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The top three (Rohit, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli) have enjoyed a fairly consistent run since 2016.
But it was a rare occasion when Dhoni had to come out in the fourth over of the innings. Dhoni averages 52.95 while batting at number four, which is higher than his current career-average of 50.11 over 333 games.
It is even higher than his favoured batting positions of number five (50.70) and six (46.33) but batting lower down the order, strike-rate becomes paramount.
Yet, Dhoni's career strike-rate at number four is 94.21 is higher than his overall career strike-rate of 87.60, or at number five (86.08) and number six (83.23).
When India last played ODIs in Australia in January 2016, Dhoni batted at number four in two matches but only scored 18 runs.
In fact, since that series, Dhoni has batted at number four in only eight ODIs, with the last instance in the 2018 Asia Cup.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Vijay Shankar.
Australia: Aron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa.
Match starts at: 7.50am IST
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First Published: January 14, 2019, 3:17 PM IST