Series is already in the pocket. Now it is time to sort out the mess in the middle-order by trying out the new faces. This should be India’s single point agenda from Friday’s dead-rubber at Centurion.

“After this series is wrapped up we’ll sit down and think about where to improve. For now, 4-1 feels great. We want to win 5-1, for sure, but there might be a scenario for a few more guys to get a chance in the next match.”

After becoming the first ever Indian captain to win a maiden bilateral series on South African soil, Virat Kohli on Tuesday made it quite clear in his post-match speech that the team management is looking to test the bench-strength of the team in the sixth ODI — a decision, which seems quite logical at this point in time.

There are five cricketers in the present 17-member Indian squad — Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur — who are yet play a single game on this ODI series. India have faced middle-order woes throughout the tour, despite that someone like Karthik or Pandey are not yet tried out, which seems quite surprising to me. Axar and Shardul’s omission can be justified as the bowling department has been in a top-notch form of late, whereas the think-tank might have given Shami a break following the hectic workload in the Test series.

Well, in the sixth ODI, we might see a new-look bowling attack. Before the three-match T20 series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah deserve a break. Shardul and Shami can take their places. Axar also can be included, replacing either of Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal. For me, Kuldeep seems like the most likely candidate as the think-tank would like to keep his mystery intact for the T20Is. Meanwhile, the dry surface at Centurion will be the ideal track for Axar to play his first game on this tour.

Ok, let’s now talk about the batting, especially the misfiring middle-order.

In this series, apart from India’s top-three, not enough significant contributions have come from the middle-order. At No. 4 Ajinkya Rahane’s form has been patchy. For No. 5, the think-tank tried out Kedar Jadhav in the first three matches and Shreyas Iyer in the next two, but nothing substantial has come out from these experiments. To make things more complicated, in the lower-middle order, Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni haven’t got going as well.

At Centurion, ideally, Kohli and Co. should give MS Dhoni a break and try out Karthik. They can also do the same with Rahane to accommodate Pandey in the playing eleven. In fact, one of the two openers or Kohli himself can sit out to give the likes of Kedar and Shreyas another opportunity to justify their selections in the squad.

Keeping the 2019 World Cup in mind, India should continue to try out the youngsters to identify its ideal 15 for the mega event and it can only be decided by the trial and error method. Also, the team management needs to be persistent with the Iyers and Pandeys and Jadhavs and other youngsters. One should understand that these newcomers need a consistent run to be groomed properly and blossom at the international area.

Unfortunately, it seems at this point in time, the India team has adopted an erratic selection policy for these youngsters. Just giving them a game here and there doesn’t serve any purpose. In fact, even if these players get a chance and do well at Centurion, there is no guarantee that in the next series, they will be picked in the playing eleven.

It is high time for the Indian think-tank to review this selection policy.