In December 2021, the BCCI, courtesy of a rather curt statement, indicated that Rohit Sharma, who was appointed India’s T20I skipper in November, would be handed over the reins in the ODI format too.

Only a couple of months have passed since then but it almost feels like an eternity, considering the turmoil the Indian team have gone through. Hence, Rohit’s ascent to the ODI throne couldn’t come soon enough. Not just because a fifty-over World Cup is on the horizon. But also because India have, by their high standards, been pretty ordinary in ODI cricket since the start of 2020.

As things stand, the team is undergoing one of their poorest ODI phases in recent times. And, the changing of the guard hasn’t particularly been seamless. Furthermore, there is plenty of uncertainty around the Indian ranks, both in terms of the personnel deployed and the approach adopted, meaning that they might not have it easy against the West Indies. Unless, of course, they can answer the questions that are staring them in the face.

Can India be more fearless with the bat?

For starters, India might need to revamp their batting approach. At the moment, it seems a touch sluggish for how modern-day ODI cricket is played. The team have been inclined towards having at least a couple of anchors – possibly as a safeguard for collapses. That, to an extent, has allowed them to put up competitive totals in challenging conditions. Yet, with pitches getting flatter, bats getting wider and batters becoming more fearless, India have been caught napping.

Against South Africa, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli notched up a brace of half-centuries each. Neither, though, really cast India into any sort of ascendancy, and neither cashed in, meaning that India were pulled down. KL Rahul was also guilty of the same in the second ODI and struck at only 69. The entire burden was transferred onto Rishabh Pant, who in his endeavour to keep things ticking, perished.

So, a genuine case can be made that India need to be braver with the bat. Not only do they need to plan for a higher ceiling at the start of the innings, they need to be more proactive. They have Pant who satisfies that criteria but they need a few more cut out from a similar cloth.

What should the middle order look like?

The lack of impetus at the top also makes the middle order’s job tougher. The likes of Shreyas Iyer and Venkatesh Iyer are quite talented. Yet, both seem to be batting lower than they should be. A batter of Suryakumar Yadav’s ilk could solve that particular quandary but it remains to be seen how much the new regime trusts him to play that role, considering he hardly featured in South Africa.

Another slightly left-field option could be to include Ruturaj Gaikwad – a batter who dominates spin bowling. However, he has, over the course of the past few months, played no international games, despite being in the squad and setting the IPL ablaze.

Bowlers need to regain their Powerplay spark

With only middling totals on the board, the bowling attack has also not been very effective. India’s woes in the bowling Powerplay are, in fact, quite staggering. They have picked up only 13 wickets in their past 24 ODIs. Their lackadaisicalness is emphasised by Jasprit Bumrah bagging a solitary Powerplay wicket since he dismissed Martin Guptill in the semi-final of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has also fallen off a cliff, whereas Mohammed Shami hasn’t been playing enough ODI cricket. Shardul Thakur has accounted for batters but has been too expensive (15 wickets at 7.17).

An answer could arrive in the form of Deepak Chahar. Rohit has, during his tenure as MI captain, been inclined to unleash two wicket-taking bowlers at the top. Thus, it would be interesting to see how (or if) Rohit optimises Chahar’s skill-set.

Can Rohit get the best out of the spinners?

With oppositions invariably getting off to swift starts, India’s spinners haven’t been able to control matches either. Yuzvendra Chahal has looked a pale shadow of himself and the Ravichandran Ashwin ODI experiment has also not transpired as expected.

To that end, the inclusion of Kuldeep Yadav could be the silver lining they have been craving. At his best, the left-arm spinner is one of the toughest bowlers to face and has bamboozled many international batting units. The problem, though, is that he has been devoid of confidence in recent months and might need someone like Rohit to put an arm around his shoulder, assure him of his place and let him enjoy his bowling. And, considering fortunes elsewhere, it is certainly a gamble he should be taking against the West Indies.

So, there is quite a bit on Rohit’s plate heading into the series against the West Indies. He has to inject confidence into India’s ODI setup. And, he has to prove that he is indeed the right man for the job, especially after all that has happened off the field.

In an ideal world, Rohit would’ve wanted to assume captaincy with a few more constants laid out. On the flip side, though, this is the perfect opportunity for him to ingrain his philosophy and propel India into the top bracket of ODI cricket again.

After all, it isn’t fun being an Indian captain and not being under pressure, is it?