Spotlight on out of form seniors as Dhoni remains doubtful

New Delhi, Jan 5 (IANS) With the series already lost, India's misfiring senior players will be looking to strike form even as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni remains doubtful for Sunday's third and final ODI against Pakistan.

It will be the last chance for the seniors to impress the selectors as the team for the forthcoming five-match series against England will be announced after the match at the Ferozeshah Kotla.

The Indian top order has struggled in the series and the spotlight will be on Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina to perform or perish at the Ferozeshah Kotla.

Dhoni has a sore back the he sustained during Saturday's practice session. Dinesh Karthik will be his cover.

"I don't think anyone is irreplaceable. If I miss the match, I'm sure Dinesh will bat as well as I did in the last two matches," Dhoni said.

While India will have only pride to play for, Pakistan will be looking to finish the series with a 3-0 whitewash.

The public outcry following the dismal performance in the Test series against England and now against Pakistan have put India under pressure and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be looking to finish the series with at least a win.

Dhoni, who has been amongst the runs in the series, said the top-order's failure has been a concern for the team.

Dhoni had defended Virat Kohli, but stressed than one of the top-three has to bat with the middle-order.

Kohli has been India's highest run getter last year in both ODIs and Test but has struggled against Pakistan. Kohli has managed scores of zero and six in the last two ODIs.

For Dhoni it will be a tough call to make, whether to continue with he opening batsman or replace one of them with Ajinkya Rahane. But at their home ground, it will be difficult to leave out Sehwag and Gambhir.

Asked about Rahane, Dhoni said: "We'll have to weigh in the alternatives we have and decide whether it would be wise to make changes in the last game of the series or give him a long rope in the next series."

The bowling has also been unimpressive. Pacers Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar lack the bite and spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been ineffective.

It is to be seen if Dhoni picks some youngsters or retains the same side as the team desperately looks for a win.

Pakistan have been impressive right from the drawn two-match Twenty20 series. Their young openers Nasir Jamshed and Mohammed Hafeez have given the team good starts.

Jamshed has been the pick of the batsmen in the series and has hit three consecutive centuries - one in the Asia Cup last year - that too against India.

Hafeez, who captains the T20 side, has proved to the selectors that it is time for them to hand over the charge to him. He has been exceptional with his batting and bowling throughout the series.

For current Pakistan one-day skipper Misbal-ul-Haq, it is high time to get back among runs.

Unlike India, bowling has been Pakistan's strength. The fast bowlers, especially left-arm pacer Junaid Khan, have proved lethal while spinners Saeed Ajmal and Hafeez have been miserly.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra and Mohammad Sami Ahmed.

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail, Imran Farhat, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz and Zulfiqar Babar.

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