Justin Langer is a very likeable character. He comes to the media conferences like he is going to sit with a few friends and talk about life on a warm Sunday afternoon. Only thing missing is beer, or wine, depending on your preference. 

Win or lose, his demeanour doesn’t change. Maybe, it is a personality trait. Or maybe, his team is at a point in its development stage where he cannot help being pragmatic about the whole situation. Missing two world-class players, going down to a superb Cheteshwar Pujara and the Indian attack in the Test series, and now with the responsibility to build their ODI team from scratch three months before the 2019 World Cup – the coach has a lot on his plate. (ALSO READ: Eye on World Cup, India must build middle order around MS Dhoni 2.0)

You can understand why the Australian dressing room was jubilant after winning the first ODI in Sydney. In sport, you cannot throw in the towel ever, but practicality wins out. Any Premier League football team playing Manchester City at the moment will strive hard to compete, but there is also inevitability about playing such an opponent. You know you will fight hard, throw the kitchen-sink at it, and perhaps it will come off. There is a greater chance that you will get trampled instead.  (ALSO READ: 2nd ODI-Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni soar, Aaron Finch sinks)

For Australia, going 1-0 up in the series was almost like a stunning upset over the team that is one of the two favourites to win the World Cup this summer. Even so, they were grounded, and accepted graciously when a lesson was handed out to them in Adelaide on Tuesday. At least Langer wasn’t downbeat – he knew what particular factor had won the day. 

“The way Virat (Kohli) and MS (Dhoni) batted today, you hate losing but when you see that – it’s amazing, it’s why they are such great players so we will gain great experience from it,” he said, after the six-wicket loss which allowed India to level the series 1-1. (ALSO READ: There is no doubt that MS Dhoni should be a part of this team: Virat Kohli)

Experience is not a currency that can be bought, not in the sporting arena. It needs to be earned, and Langer’s words are the perfect justification why captain Kohli and the Indian team management need Dhoni in this playing eleven, at least until the World Cup. His form – two half-centuries in two matches, playing the situation in one, finishing the other, strike-rate be damned – hasn’t put any doubts to rest.

While you want to stop the debate and look ahead as concerns Dhoni’s particular case, there is still the worrisome matter of a shaky Indian middle-order. The veteran was able to shake off his rustiness in a flash. But Ambati Rayudu – on evidence of these two matches – still needs more time if he is to convince those watching that he is the number four solution.

As such, this Adelaide win provides the perfect template for the Indian ODI line-up. While Rayudu was scratching about, Kohli rotated the strike amply, keeping the scorecard ticking with the odd boundary. It is his ODI ‘cruise mode’ – Kohli doesn’t worry about strike rate and will happily run a hundred runs if need be, aware in self-confidence that he can make up the difference at any stage. That is his current batting prowess, and the numbers – 39 ODI hundreds – are starting to reflect that.

Kohli allowed time for Rayudu to warm up, but when that didn’t happen, he was asked to simply hit out or get out. It was no surprise that the latter transpired, and then Dhoni needed time to get going as well. It was at this precise moment that Kohli brought out those two caressing sixes – they were not powered but timed, sailing over the ropes.

Here’s the point to ponder. While Rayudu and Dhoni need time to get going, India’s innings almost inevitably gets unstuck and the required run-rate escalates. This is something the team management needs to re-address, and as such, vice-captain Rohit Sharma’s suggestion of moving Dhoni up the order (to number four) is worth pondering.

Any innings in ODI cricket today is bookended by two Powerplays of ten overs each, wherein batsmen only concentrate on hitting it out of the park. Yet, the middle overs are more important for they provide the structure to any innings and decide what score you end up getting. Therein, rotating strike and running hard between the wickets becomes of prime importance.

There is arguably no other pair in world cricket that runs as well together as Kohli and Dhoni do. For the former, running between the wickets is a chancy sprint. For the latter, it is about understanding what his partner can or cannot do. It is a combination that works well. Recall Mohali 2016, when they turned the World T20 game against Australia by simply running between the wickets.

We saw visuals of the same in Adelaide too, as the ball was dabbed to the 30-yard circle and they ran two, because the outfield fielder was too deep. When Kohli-Dhoni do this, it isn’t just running between the wickets, but a marvellous synchronisation in the art of keeping things ticking.

Back in that 2016 game, Kohli finished things off with big hits and Dinesh Karthik provided that big hitting flourish in Adelaide, along with Dhoni. It showed that India need a bit more firepower in the lower end, perhaps if Rishabh Pant is included, or when Hardik Pandya comes back.

Most of all, this makes the case why Kohli and Dhoni should bat together in the middle-overs more often than not, so that the Indian batting line-up can pivot around them.