Virat Kohli's India returned to international cricket in disappointing fashion as they fell to a 66-run loss at the hands of Australia in the 1st ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground. This was the Men in Blue's fourth loss on the trot in the 50-over format - their worst run since 2016.
India's biggest weakness is the lack of a second all-rounder to complement Ravindra Jadeja, since Hardik Pandya is playing as a specialist batsman at No. 6. However, they can't really address that issue by making changes to their playing XI, simply because they don't have any all-rounders to the bench.
Shardul Thakur is the closest they come to a bowling all-rounder, and while he has played a couple of cameos in the Indian Premier League, there's no way he can be expected to contribute with the bat consistently at the international level.
While India might not have a quick fix for their all-rounder woes, there are two changes they can consider making in order to take the series to a decider.
India should consider bringing in Kuldeep Yadav and T Natarajan for Yuzvendra Chahal and Navdeep Saini
Yuzvendra Chahal was in great wicket-taking form in the Indian Premier League, and played an integral part in the Royal Challengers Bangalore reaching the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. He has also become a staple of the national side, and picked up 6 wickets in the two ODIs that he played against New Zealand earlier this year.
However, it might be time for India to look past Chahal, because the leg-spinner has become slightly predictable when there's not much turn on offer. He seemed to have developed a googly potent enough to fool the best players of spin, but has been very reluctant to bowl it in the 1st ODI.
Chahal didn't vary his pace and length effectively enough, and was taken for 89 runs in his 10 overs. Moreover, his inclusion in the team - Ravindra Jadeja cannot be dropped at any cost - means that India are left without a bowler who can take the ball away from the left-hander.
Kuldeep Yadav might be the man India can turn to. The left-arm wrist-spinner is certainly low on form and confidence, having picked up just 1 wicket in the Indian Premier League in 5 games. However, there's enough reason to believe that he can be an X-factor for India against the Aussies, who are excellent players of spin.
Kuldeep has many deceptive variations in his arsenal, and is more of an 'unknown' than Chahal. He'll give Virat Kohli a failsafe option against the southpaws in David Warner and Alex Carey, and will always be on the lookout for wickets.
Given how much faith Kohli has in Chahal and the Haryana bowler's own consistent performances over the years, it's unlikely that India make this change. However, it's certainly something that must be considered.
The other change, T Natarajan in for Navdeep Saini, is relatively more straightforward. The Royal Challengers Bangalore pacer had a disappointing Indian Premier League campaign in which he finished with only 6 wickets at an economy rate of above 8, and failed to lead the team's pace attack like he was touted to.
Saini also suffered from some back spasms recently, and the only reason Natarajan is in the squad is to provide back-up. The left-armer will add variety to the attack, and will be a far more reliable option in the middle overs and at the death.
Natarajan might be completely inexperienced at the international level, but he has proved that he has what it takes to outsmart great batsmen when under pressure. He will face competition from Shardul Thakur to replace Saini, who was all over the place and conceded over 80 runs in the 1st ODI, but should get the nod owing to the extra edge that he'll bring to the bowling attack.
These two changes might seem like knee-jerk reactions after just one loss, but India don't have much time to lose in a 3-match series. Kuldeep and Natarajan could turn out to be inspired selections if they get the nod in India's playing XI for the 2nd ODI.