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Dhawal Kularni’s addition will add accuracy to the Indian bowling attack © AFP

The caravan of the cricket teams from India and New Zealand has reached the small town of Ranchi, which is also the hometown of the captain of the hosts’ cricket team. India and New Zealand will be clashing on Wednesday for the fourth ODI of their ongoing five-match series, and with the series up for grabs, this contest could decide the fate of the series. India currently lead by 2-1, having won the first and the third ODIs by massive margins, but New Zealand showed in the second game at New Delhi that they will not return home after a long stay without throwing some punches. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs New Zealand, 4th ODI at Ranchi

The Indian selectors have in a way set the tone early into the build-up to this game, as they have not made any change to the 14-member squad which was announced on Monday, barring releasing Suresh Raina, who has been ruled out of the entire series. It was very unfortunate for Raina to have missed out on the series at a time when there are far too many are in contention for spots in the Indian cricket team, especially, when he is not a regular member anymore.

But then, someone’s loss is a gain for someone else. Raina’s absence has certainly provided the Indian management to play some other players who have been on the fringe, but not all of them have got chances. Jayant Yadav, for that matter, has not even got a single opportunity despite being a member of the Indian side in the tour of Zimbabwe as well as in this ODI series against New Zealand so far. The right-arm off break bowling all-rounder can be a good replacement for Akshar Patel, but only if India are ready to break the variety they have been having with the left and right spinning combination that he forms with Amit Mishra.

There are two more cricketers who have not yet got any chance so far in this series, as India have remained unchanged for the first three ODIs. Mandeep Singh and Dhawal Kulkarni have warmed the benches, but as India are still finding their best playing combinations especially when their premier bowlers are not around. While Dhawal can be an excellent replacement for Umesh Yadav – since the other seamer Hardik Pandya also carries the responsibility for adding some runs – it remains to be seen whether the Indians are ready to tweak with their batting line-up.

It is amply clear that Dhoni would want to continue at No. 4, and if the Indian skipper manages to bat on for long, those following him may not get as many overs to bat. But then, when the competition to earn a spot in the side intensifying with every passing match, it becomes imperative for the competing cricketers to make most of every opportunity that comes their way. In this context, the performances of Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey will be closely monitored as these are the also the two other likely players who can be replaced with those who have been on the bench.

So far in the three ODIs, among the two, it is Jadhav who has been the most impressive, albeit with his bowling. The right-arm part-time spinner who had only 1 List A wicket before this series has bagged a handful in the three ODIs so far. It is not just the number of wickets that he has taken, but the role that he has played is very important to be considered. Jadhav has accounted for some of the key batsmen in all three ODIs so far, and for India to maintain what they have done with their spinners so far, it does not look like he is the one who can be replaced.

In regards to experience, Pandey certainly has the edge with 10 ODIs and 6 T20Is so far, compared to Mandeep’s 3 T20Is in Zimbabwe. But then, Pandey is yet to make any significant contribution, and his innings in the third ODI cannot be counted for much since it was Virat Kohli who was on the charge and bringing an end to the game sooner than expected. But Pandey did disappoint in the first two ODIs, being dismissed under 20 on both the occasions.  For India, bringing in Mandeep in for Pandey will make them look into all the options that they have in order to finalise the core for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. India have only 4 more ODIs left for the tournament in which they are the defending champions, and it is important that by then, they have worked out all their combinations and options to the level of satisfaction.

Replacing Akshar with Jayant will not be of a huge impact, since the former has been ordinary with the ball as well as the bat so far in the three games. Akshar has bagged only 1 wicket and has given at least 40 runs every time he has bowled. In the second ODI, when India had their backs on the wall and the team needed someone to play sensibly, Patel fell to part-time spin of Martin Guptill, taking the bowler lightly and going for the stroke which he could not connect properly. Indeed, as a batsman who has the First-Class average of 54.10, Akshar is definitely a better option when compare to Jayant, who has made runs in the domestic cricket at a little above 28. But then, if the Indians are not ready to experiment at this point of time, then when will they be?

Even in the pace bowling department, the inclusion of an extremely accurate Kulkarni should bolster the bowling attack, especially after witnessing the wayward tendencies of Pandya and Yadav. Not taking away anything from India’s new-ball bowling pair so far in the three ODIs of this series, Kulkarni’s inclusion will only add the missing factor of some tight and disciplined bowling from the fast bowling department.

India may have had a minor blip in the second ODI when they lost narrowly by 6 runs, their performance in the next game was certainly a sign that this unit is a quick learner and ready to make amends. Even if there are a few changes in their side for the next two games, the positivity will only rub off on the incoming cricketers, spurring them to do better.

(Devarchit Varma is a senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)