Manish Pandey (left) and Gurkeerat Singh (right).
Manish Pandey (left) and Gurkeerat Singh (right) are all set to mark their presence in international cricket. (Photo courtesy: Manish Pandey – Getty Images, Gurkeerat Singh – Twitter)

A mercurial Indian side has had a mixed run in the shorter formats so far, with their vulnerable batting-order proving costly for them. They have banked heavily on a few batsmen to bail them out, upon the failure of whom the rest of the side have fallen like nine pins. With  India scheduled to play five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) against Australia Down Under, they will certainly have a tough challenge to overcome, as Australian conditions are not conducive for batting. As few players have cemented their place in the side, India will have to take the tough call of choosing between Manish Pandey and Gurkeerat Singh. Suraj Choudhari takes a profound look at the obstacle, and highlights the better option between two youngsters who are all set to make an impact in international cricket.  FULL SCORECARD: Australia vs India, 1st ODI at Perth.

The last time when these two giants met in an ODI game was in the dramatic ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 semi-final at Sydney, which Australia won comprehensively. India looked despondent in that encounter as the game was indubitably dominated by the hosts. The ball never travelled in India’s court and team were always over the barrel. One would not be wrong in stating that India did not have enough ammunition in their artillery to bring down the Australian ship. But the thing that makes the difference in the upcoming series is that the Australian team is not the same anymore; there are few fresh legs along with an inexperienced bowling attack. Many of their established players have called it a day and to add to their woes Mitchell Starc has pulled a mistimed injury and David Warner may miss majority of the tour due to paternity leave. This means their skipper Steven Smith has a task in hand in leading the young guns. ALSO READ: India vs Australia 2015-16: Squads picked up with an eye on the broader picture — ICC World T20 2016.

Getting back to Indian batting order, India will surely roll in with five bowlers. Looking at the form that Ravindra Jadeja is in, he seems to be the right contender for the fifth bowler’s spot. Thus, India will have to play six specialist batsmen including their skipper and wicketkeeper MS Dhoni. With Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli being the fantastic four, only one spot is vacant for a specialist batsman, with India’s options narrowing down to the duo of Manish Pandey and Gurkeerat Singh. ALSO READ: Inexperience in Australia’s pace arsenal gives Virat Kohli an opportunity to improve his dismal record.

Pandey burst into the international scene with a maverick knock in his debut game against Zimbabwe, where he slammed a scorching 71 last year. Pandey has the ability to go blitzkrieg once he gets his eyes in and also has the potential to anchor the innings. His technique is based on the sound principles of timing and placement and is equally equipped to tackle pace and spin on any surface. What sets him apart is his potential to take on any bowling attack. He has been a consistent performer in the domestic circuit and a proven match winner. His inclusion will bring a lot of stability and would further strengthen the Indian batting order. Pandey was tipped to be the next big thing when he plundered a century for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) side in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2009. But his knack of throwing away the wicket has taken a heavy toll of him. ALSO READ: Australia announce squad for home ODI series against India; Shane Watson excluded

Pandey needs to be groomed; it has been said over the years that he is the next big thing but has not been given enough chances. He has been plucky in his approach and hungry to prove his worth. This series is the perfect time to shape him, and with the age and potential being on his side, he can certainly make these opportunities count. In 75 First-Class outings, Pandey averages 50.37, whereas in 85 List A games Pandey has a healthy average of just over 34 with a striking rate of almost 90.

For Gurkeerat Singh, he’s not had enough exposure like Pandey. Gurkeerat’s List A average though is better than that of Pandey, but Australian conditions are tough to bat in and could probably batter his confidence. He deserves a chance, but not at the expense of Pandey. At present, India’s middle order looks a bit delicate. If one focuses on the recent form of both the batsmen, Pandey has the upper hand.

One thing is for sure— either Pandey or Gurkeerat, whoever gets picked will be filling in the big shoes of Suresh Raina. The latter did not have a fruitful run in the series, as a result of which he was axed from the national side. Raina’s duty was to score runs at a brisk pace and play an anchoring role during crisis, but mostly he was there in the team for his maverick approach. If selectors keep this factor in mind then there is no doubt that they should invest in Pandey as his approach is somewhat similar to Raina. ALSO READ: India must expect criticism if they fail in Australia: Ravichandran Ashwin

In the recently-concluded ODI series against South Africa, India lost the decider and with it the series. There was a lot of shuffling in the batting order carried out in the entire series. Kohli and Rahane’s batting position were constantly jumbled. In such situation Pandey who is all geared up to bat any position can provide an option and come handy.

Pandey has toiled enough to sculpt a spot in the playing XI, and its high time he gets his dividends paid for the hard yards he has put on the field. Initially he should be the go to man in the ODI series; the team always have a back up option with Gurkeerat should he fail. For T20Is too, Pandey is a renowned assaulter at the top Indian domestic circuit. India hasn’t done reasonably well in the shortest format of the game when it comes to opening. Pandey’s knack of clearing the infield and going over the top could get some priceless runs with the new ball and field restrictions on.

(Suraj Choudhari is a reporter with Criclife and CricketCountry. He is an avid follower of the game, and plays the sport at club level. He has a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, and tries to express it through paper and pen.)