Why is Suryakumar Yadav opening the batting in West Indies?
What exactly are India hoping to gain out of Suryakumar Yadav opening two months before the T20 World Cup?
These are different days in Indian cricket. No longer are India's captain and head coach entering press conferences as if approaching a boxing ring with the journalists. There are no axes to grind, no boasting of achievements, simple queries, and responses. Explanations.
While it will take time to arrest the longstanding decline in the relationship between those who sit behind the mic and those who throw questions their way, it has been refreshing to see Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid do their bit by confronting the media with their minds and hearts open for a dialogue.
They've been willing to explain the whys and hows of their decisions and make tactical sense about it. There was criticism of giving Avesh Khan the final over with 10 needed in St Kitts when the experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar has two overs available. But the set-up emerged more secure and confident in the public eye by explaining the rationale despite India's loss.
The side looked beyond the result and tried to tick one box with the T20 World Cup looming. They failed at it, but you can accept that so long as there is clarity of thought behind a move.
That sense of clarity, however, hasn't been as apparent about the move of promoting middle-order star Suryakumar Yadav to opening the innings in the West Indies. With KL Rahul missing, it was anticipated that the team management will give Rishabh Pant another series to warm up to his new role at the top. Instead, Yadav has opened, with no clear intentions, at least to those of us watching from the outside.
After two failures at the start of the series, he came back strongly with a match-winning 76 off 44 in the third T20I. But this isn't about the result, for the current Suryakumar Yadav is too good a player not to eventually score runs wherever he bats. He also has a decent body of work as an opener for Mumbai Indians (MI) in the IPL, averaging a healthy 36.75 with a strike-rate above 135 over 12 innings.
It is figuring out why he is opening when Pant was to claim the backup opener's job in the Caribbean, with Rahul and Rohit playing incumbents at the top. Or potentially, Rahul moving down to liberate himself and Pant in roles and phases they may be best suited.
Why with only two months left for the T20 World Cup has the think-tank given themselves more headache in finalising the combination they will field in Australia? It can't be about expanding the number of options, for this is time to play your best players where they most likely will Down Under.
Could it be with the fear of losing a left-hander from the middle-order that has forced the management to reconsider the Pant opening ploy?
That would still not explain why Suryakumar Yadav - a middle-order stalwart - is opening in the Caribbean, when backup opener Ishan Kishan had shown promising signs with the bat at home against South Africa in June.
What is the thought behind opening with Suryakumar Yadav?
Kishan maybe unlikely to take the plane to Australia and that might have compelled the management to consider trialling Suryakumar Yadav as an extra backup opener. But wouldn't that be downsizing India's middle-order muscle against spin at a time when that has been a major problem area for Virat Kohli at No.3. Yadav has a strike-rate of 173.52 versus spin since his T20I debut.
The only blip in Yadav's spin record comes against left-arm spin, off which he has gone at 103.77 over eight innings in T20Is and 105.97 over 58 innings in the IPL. This blip against the left-arm fingerspin has led to a theory: since West Indies are equipped with Akeal Hosein to bowl in the middle stage, the team management has looked to keep Yadav away from him and let Pant handle the ball turning into him.
But that hasn't covered the fact that Hosein has been a regular feature for West Indies in the powerplay, he has an economy rate of 7.39 over 16 innings inside the field restriction phase.
The hosts' immediate counter to the Yadav promotion has been to bowl more of Hosein in the powerplay, with the left-armer getting his man cheaply in Tarouba.
Either way, this was a series meant to iron out flaws, not to run away from them.
There are two more games left before KL Rahul most likely returns for the Asia Cup T20 in UAE. The elegant right-hander would be opening the innings at the World Cup, too, alongside Rohit.
Regardless of how Suryakumar Yadav goes then, the next Dravid press conference makes for an exciting affair, for the coach, whose brain constantly ticks, will be asked to explain why exactly has he told the right-hander to open and why wasn't Pant given another series at the top?
Dravid has brought greater clarity and stability to this setup. One can expect him to come up with a clear and convincing explanation.
If even he doesn't, one would feel opening the innings with Yadav was a bit of a waste in the larger scheme of things.