India might be one of the favorites for the World Cup, but their squad selection has some potentially fatal flaws. Our analyst explains the blunders committed by the selection committee for India’s World Cup campaign.
England’s pitches are no longer ones that help seamers and pacers with their bounce. English administrators believe in the phrase, “it’s coming home.” So, accordingly the pitches have been doctored to suit the stroke play of Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and irrepressible skipper Eoin Morgan.
The results are an eye opener. The recent England vs Pakistan series is a testimony to 350+ scores in all matches. Now, the question arises, does India have the right personnel to combat 300+ scores in any eventuality. Off the cuff, my answer is a big no.
Data mining and cracking insights into the current Indian squad may help us to solve the unanswered puzzle.
The Indian team for the 2019 World Cup is as follows
Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan
Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Vijay Shankar
Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, KL Rahul and Dinesh Karthik
Only three pure batsmen aided by Rahul, Dhoni and Pandya hoping to achieve 300+ scores in every outing is a daunting task. India, probably, has lost the strategic battle at the outset.
Diehard fans will troll me for being negative in outlook, but I am a realist. Indian bowling is superior to its batting in these conditions. If the opposition is scoring 350+ against other teams then against India they will score 300 only. So Indian bowlers are adept at creating a cushion of 50 odd runs to make life easier for the batsmen,
Absence of middle-order
The Indian middle order is totally inexperienced. The likes of Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav will crumble if they have to score 200+ in 30 odd overs. Hardik may win an odd match or too but if the top five batsmen do not score 200 runs, India will be in a losing position. In a nut shell, India is a top-heavy team and if they do not perform, then battle is as good as lost.
Vijay Shankar scored 244 at an average of 20.33 in IPL 2019. Expecting him to perform better against stronger opposition is a pipe dream. Further he did not bowl much for Sunrisers Hyderabad, so his ability in containing opposing batsmen is left to chance.
Kedar Jadhav scored 162 runs at an average of 18. Will he do better on faster pitches? His USP lies in moving in a crease and same will not be the case in England. Furthermore, he is prone to injuries and lasting such long tournament will be a miracle for him.
In their place Rishabh Pant and Ajinkya Rahane should have been picked. They can play long innings so if first five fail to deliver, India would still stand a chance. Both of them performed well in their last England Tour so they would have gone with their tails up. In the IPL, Rishabh made 488 runs at an average of 37.354 and Rahane scored 393 runs at an avg. of 32.75. In my opinion their selection was a no brainer.
Why have you picked three keepers? This enigma cannot be satiated by any rationalist. When you have Dhoni, who is supremely fit then the chance of another keeper starting is extremely dim.
For standby India has an able keeper in the form of KL Rahul, who is in great form. Karthik can play good T20 innings but a long innings is not expected from him. His self-confidence seems to be jolted as well, considering how his captaincy was criticized during the IPL. India lost the chance to strengthen their bowling by not choosing one in Karthik’s place.
If any person watched the IPL, they would have seen the kind of respect Ravi Ashwin, Bumrah and Kagiso Rabada got. All other bowlers were treated with disdain.
Ashwin took 15 wickets at an economy rate of 7.27, which is really commendable. Similarly, Khaleel Ahmed induced Virat to edge and got everyone’s attention. He scalped 19 wickets in only 9 matches. The irony is that both of them are sitting out.
In England the wickets are taken by bowlers who can spin the ball like Adil Rashid. Or they get movement like David Willey, Tom Curran and Chris Woakes. So, Ashwin who can turn and Khaleel who can move the ball would have proved to be big assets.
In my opinion, Jadeja should have paved the way for Ashwin and Karthik should have been replaced by Khaleel.
MS Dhoni is not good enough in chasing 300+ scores
Too many articles have written in praise of MS Dhoni and no doubt he has been the best chaser but only in sub 300 totals. His career strike rate is only 87.56 and that illustrates he can force pace only in the last overs.
Not one of his 10 ODI centuries have been scored in a 300+ chase. Surprising element is that in 300+ successful chases he has not even scored a half century. Indian fans will have to subvert expectations that he can win matches single-handedly like Kohli.
If Dhoni has to treated as a batsman he should be sent 2 down so that the run rate is maintained by other player. Dhoni’s role in this case would be to keep his wicket. Later, players like Jadhav, Pandya and Jadeja can go all out. Dhoni can also be sent in around the 35 over mark, as he can take his time till the 40th over and then go all out.
MS Dhoni is an asset but he has to be used in a specific role. He cannot be a messiah in chasing 300+ score but he will be crucial in chasing sub-250 scores.
The Long Tail
Shami, Kuldeep, Chahal and Bumrah are India’s last four batsmen and no one has an average of more than 10. If India loses six wickets then the opposition clearly has the advantage.
India, arguably, has one of the worst tails among the Test playing nations. Generally, tail enders can use long handle and hit sporadic sixes. None of India’s tail enders, bar Shami, have that ability. It is a worrisome thought. Due to this India is having one of the worst strike rates between 41 to 50 overs.
All these blunders can be thwarted by assigning specific roles and responsibilities. The way Dhoni included Harbhajan only for matches in CSK, the same clarity is needed by Indian team. When to use both Kuldeep and Chahal, and when to replace them with Jadeja. Whether to play Pandya as an all-rounder or to play him at number five as a pure batsman (my choice).
I will be in England to watch matches and hoping that right decisions are taken at the right time. It will be definitely a run fest and I do hope that competitive cricket takes place.