Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane – that is a pretty impressive trio of options available for MS Dhoni when it comes to the decision on who will open in their first tri-series match against Australia, and probably the World Cup as well.
Shikhar Dhawan looks a certainty for one of the opening slots – at least for the first few matches – as that is his established position in the India team. While the left-hander failed to set the Test series alight, leading to him being dropped for the final Test against Australia, there is little doubt that Dhawan is a completely different beast when it comes to ODIs.
The same can be said about Rohit as well, who showed just how destructive a batsman he can be in one-day international cricket with that unforgettable 264 against Sri Lanka a couple of months back.
Having said that, though, Rohit is a different player away from home and with rotation of strike so essential in these conditions in Australia – something the right-hander is not the best at – Ajinkya Rahane would not be such a bad option to open along with Dhawan.
Rahane, whenever given an opportunity, has shown he is capable of batting splendidly well at the top, and the Mumbaikar also scored a wonderful ODI century in the series in England last year. However, Rahane has played most of his ODI cricket for India down the order, and with Rohit not playing in the middle order for a while now for his country, a decision to send him down the order just ahead of the World Cup is fraught with danger.
Asked about which of the two right-handers would play with Dhawan at the top of the innings, Dhoni was his usual closed self, instead focusing on the importance of getting the final XI combination right going into the World Cup.
"What we [need to] do is try out different things," said the now ODI and T20 skipper, who surprised everyone with his Test retirement after the third match of the series against Australia. "We will in this tournament also."
Dhoni will not be able to select either Ravindra Jadeja or Ishant Sharma for their tri-series opener against Australia in Melbourne on Sunday, with the duo still recovering from shoulder and knee injuries respectively.
"There are quite a few players with a bit of niggle here and there and we are monitoring their progress," said the skipper on Saturday. "In tomorrow's game, Ishant and Jadeja are not available for selection because we are managing their workload."
That means a chance for the other players in the World Cup 15, as well as the two extra players, who have been brought in as cover for the tri-series – Mohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni.
"I think -- we have four games at least, and five if we make the final -- what's most important for us is of course to get the combination right but at the same time what we won't do in this tournament is push people who have a few niggles that can transform into major injuries," added Dhoni.
"We will give them that extra time if needed. Because what's important for all of us is to be at least 80 to 90 percent fit going into the games. We will manage the workload accordingly."
Dhoni also admitted he will give Stuart Binny, India's only medium-pace bowling all-rounder in the squad, an opportunity with the skipper well aware that certain conditions – say in Perth, or some of the wickets in New Zealand, will require the inclusion of the "don't know if he is a pure batsman or a bowler" player.
"Depending on a few venues where we will be playing, it is important that we have a seaming all-rounder in the side," said Dhoni. "We are playing a few games in Perth and a few in New Zealand where there's not much purchase for the spinners. And that's one area where Stuey may come in.
"Irrespective of all the debate, the best seaming all-rounder of India has been picked in the side. So we are hoping that he will stand up and take the responsibility. He is exciting you know. He can play aggressive shots if needed. And he's a good bowler.
"If he gives me six to eight overs, that's enough. I can use the other part-timers to bowl those two-three overs that are needed."
Australia are likely to go in with a similar playing XI after their comprehensive win over England on Friday – David Warner, though, did admit he was suffering from a slight hamstring problem, which could keep him out of the India game. Barring niggles and injuries, George Bailey will probably want to keep the same pace attack especially after the impressive performances of Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner and Pat Cummins.
However, if Mitchell Johnson is available from a hamstring knock and Josh Hazlewood is deemed fresh enough to play, then one, if not both, of them could come in as well.
Mitchell Marsh will not be considered for selection again, while Michael Clarke continues his recovery, in the hope that he can make it for Australia's second World Cup match.
Confirmed lineups: India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Akshar Patel, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Gurinder Sandhu.