India posted a comprehensive 8-wicket win over England in the first ODI, but they were immediately brought back to earth after Eoin Morgan completed two straight wins to bag the series 2-1. The series loss also stopped India’s consecutive bilateral ODI series wins to nine.
The last two ODIs have indicated a big void in India’s line-up which needs to be rectified quickly ahead of the 2019 World Cup next year. India’s frail middle-order was exposed in the last two ODIs. In the first ODI, India’s middle-order was not required to work as the top-order comprising Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan did the bulk of scoring.
But in the second and third ODI, India’s top-order failed to fire and the middle-order crumbled. In the second ODI, once Kohli departed at the score of 140/4, India were bowled out for 236. The last six wickets managed 96 runs. Suresh Raina played a cameo of 46, while MS Dhoni laboured to 59-ball 37 as India struggled to even give a fight of a big target of 323.
In the third ODI, India were looking good at posting a big total of around 300 when Kohli was leading the charge for the team at 156/3 in 30 overs. But once Kohli departed, India were restricted to a below-par total of 256/8 in 50 overs. Dhoni managed 66-ball 42, Suresh Raina made just 1, Dinesh Karthik, in place of KL Rahul, scored 21 and Hardik Pandya cracked 21. India’s middle-order managed just 100 runs when they should have managed a total close to 300.
Middle-order’s frailty had cost Team India dear and they lost the series 1-2. MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul/Dinesh Karthik formed the middle-order and were guilty of not taking the team to a position of strength.
The failure of MS Dhoni has hurt the team’s chances the most. MS Dhoni, the most experienced batsmen for India, failed to force the pace of the innings and was found wanting in rotating the strike and getting the big hits. He was even jeered for his laboured 37 in the second ODI. The old MS Dhoni is nowhere to be seen.
Even Suresh Raina, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya should take the blame for not being able to complement the top-order. And the middle-order woes make India’s chance of winning the third World Cup title next year extremely bleak.
India would have to take a few harsh decisions and not go with the sentimental flow attached to legends. Yes, we are talking about MS Dhoni. It’s time a talented batsman in Rishabh Pant or reinvented Dinesh Karthik is given a longer run in the shorter format.
Suresh Raina too looks to be past his prime. India should try new young legs in Shreyas Iyer, giving a longer run to talented KL Rahul and if need be Kohli can bat lower down the order at No 4 or 5 to led solidity to the middle-order. In that case, the likes of Rahul, Iyer can bat higher up the order.
Kohli, being the leader, has to bear the responsibility of restructuring the middle-order. It may be recalled that Sourav Ganguly has asked India’s then best batsman Sachin Tendulkar to bat in the middle-order to resolve the middle muddle. And it was a success, until India found able talent in Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh to prop the middle-order.
Hence, Kohli and the team management should try few inventive options to make sure the middle-order woe is resolved and Team India is ready to make a strong bid for World Cup next year.