Even though the New Year has set in, many of the problems with the Indian team remain the same. Of course, they now have a new skipper in Virat Kohli, but his first big task would be to put up a decent playing eleven, something which India have struggled to do under MS Dhoni. Kohli himself does not have a magic wand, which means he will have to pick and choose from what he had got at his disposal. In the both the batting and bowling department, India have been found wanting. And there are definitely going to be changes to the side. But, who is shown the door and who gets lucky is what remains to be seen.
At the very top, India will have to make a choice between Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul, which is not really a bright scenario. Dhawan has just one Test fifty to show in the last six Tests, way too poor for a Test opener. However, will India take a punt with Rahul again after his suicidal strokemaking at Melbourne? It is like choosing between the devil and the deep sea. Going by pure cricketing logic, Rahul should be given one final chance to prove his worth. Dhawan has got ample opportunities, but hasn't utilised the same, so India better go with the one who has been tested less.
The other talk doing the rounds is that Suresh Raina would come in at number six. That scenario is possible in case Rahul opens the innings. Raina hasn't had a great run in Test cricket after a memorable debut, but those who have seen him bat in recent times believe that the left-hander has improved tremendously, and that it is time to give him another chance. Ravi Shastri has been someone who has been constantly backing Raina to do well in the Test arena. Rohit Sharma has clearly not made his chances count, and so it is only fair that Raina gets another opportunity to display his skills in whites.
In the bowling, India might in all probability rest Ishant Sharma. He looked tired at Melbourne. And, although he has been India's best bowler on the tour, he doesn't have much to show in the wickets column. Thus, unfortunately, India wouldn't miss out on much even if he doesn't play at Sydney. The bowling is a major worry for India. In case, they want to play two spinners, they would have to bring back Karn Sharma, who struggled on debut or hand a Test cap to Akshar Patel. Also, with Mohammed Shami struggling again, he might be replaced, but the option they have is equally poor -- Varun Aaron. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is not expected to play unless 100 per cent fit.
Team selection apart, the Indians will also have to be wary of how they deal with the off-field distractions. The sudden retirement of Dhoni has been met with plenty of cynicism, and some fingers have also been pointed towards new leader Kohli, of course without any evidence. It remains to be seen how the firebrand Kohli tackles this scenario. As India captain, a player has to deal with a lot more than just on-field issues. The Dhoni controversy is just one of the many that will come Kohli's way in the years to come. How he deals with such distractions will have a role in defining his captaincy stint.
--By A Cricket Analyst