The Indian line-up has chopped and changed in recent months, indicating a search for the perfect balance. It has continued into the Asia Cup, as evidenced in Sunday’s loss to Pakistan. The team’s think tank rang in the changes for the crucial encounter, bringing in leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, all-rounder Deepak Hooda and Rishabh Pant. The knee injury to Ravindra Jadeja further complicates matters. His replacement Axar Patel warmed the bench, watching on as his teammates succumbed in the final over.

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The defeat has brought pressure and scrutiny to the Indian camp as opponents, Sri Lanka, plot their exit. Nothing but a win will do, but it will require further changes according to those who cricket-know. Against Pakistan, the gun bowlers leaked runs: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal conceded 120-plus runs in their 12 overs. Lacking variety, the Pakistani batters made merry once settled at the crease. Crucially, Rohit Sharma opted against giving Deepak Hooda the ball, preferring his frontline bowlers to do the needful. Refusing to give his sixth bowler a go hints at a lack of confidence or general stubbornness in Sharma’s plans. Combined with Hooda’s non-show with the bat, there is perhaps a need for a rethink in the team composition.

Indian batter Cheteshwar Pujara- enjoying a rich vein of form in English domestic cricket– suggests picking Axar Patel’s left-arm off-spin for the Sri Lanka tie. Instead of playing two leggies, the off-spin, leg-spin combination offers a different threat to opposing batters:

“I would stick with that. I think Axar Patel should come in. I still feel that we need to change our team. This combination isn’t working for us,” argued Pujara

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Further, he feels Hardik shouldn’t be tasked with bowling his full quota of overs- perhaps due to his injury troubles. Another seam bowler in Avesh Khan is his suggestion:

“Hardik, yes he has been bowling well, but you can’t ask him to bowl four overs all the time. So, if Avesh is fit he should come back into the team,” added Pujara.

Ravichandran Ashwin also waits in the wings. Like Axar, he brings batting prowess to his spin-bowling expertise. With very little room for error, the team’s brains trust must choose wisely.