6 pointsVirat Kohli has recently completed 50 ODI’s as skipper of India. The results are mighty impressive. They’ve won every 4 out of 5 ODI’s with Kohli as skipper. They have been dominant at home, had a great run in Champions Trophy, and treated RSA like a school team in RSA’s own backyard. Bowlers have finally figured out how to take wickets during the middle portions of the game, Captain possesses two skilled slog-over bowlers and a very confident all-rounder who brings a lot of balance to the side. However, the side is far from perfect and this article highlights some of the areas that India needs to improve on before the World Cup. Normal wisdom suggests that you would want every player to have 30-50 ODI’s under their belt prior to World Cup but I disagree. Good players will shine regardless. New players bring a bit of a mystery factor and new levels of energy for high-octane tournaments. India’s IPL tournament prepares these players for big stages and selectors shouldn’t put too much emphasis on experience factor. Lower/Middle order India’s top 3 are arguably collectively biggest batting threat in one-day cricket but as the final of the Champions Trophy demonstrated if these three go cheaply, India’s lower middle doesn’t look capable of mastering tricky chases. To be honest, the top 3 have enjoyed the best of batting conditions and hogged the majority of the strike preventing the lower middle order from getting valuable match experience. Number 4 and 5 in one-day line-ups are still up for grabs. KL Rahul is still trying to figure out his role in ODI set-up. Raina is a fighter but he is technically limited. The tail is a bigger worry. With the exception of Bhuvneshwar, India has three genuine number 11 batsmen. In this era of batting deep, India over-relies on the top 7 for the bulk of heavy lifting. Elephant in the room Any sane selection committee would have ensured Dhoni is collecting his pension by now but he is guaranteed a spot in final XI for the World Cup. Given his street smartness, surprisingly he has been a constant no-show in recent past and has frustrated fans on several occasion by ignoring the match situation in trying to bat himself in. India’s reluctance of dealing firmly with fading stars puts inexperienced selection panel in a bit of a quandary. As IPL and other tournaments showed, there are potentially 2-3 very strong wicket-keeping candidates available should Team Management desire them. The entire Indian cricket fraternity worships Dhoni and you can be assured the wise old wizard will retire on his own terms. 6th Bowling Options When fully fit, India is fortunate to have 5 genuine wicket-taking options but there will be times when 1 or 2 of these bowlers will have an off day and a 6th option will come in handy. Suresh Raina is the only certified pie-chucker in the side but India can use someone who is a bit more reliable with the ball as a 6th bowling option. Krunal Pandya offers that option to India but it’s hard to see conservative Indian panel considering someone like Krunal Pandya to fill this important role. Backup Bowling Options The current backup options haven’t been that impressive. I can’t imagine the Kauls, the Sirajs, the Thakurs, and the Unadkats of winning games on their own. Agreed, they have been up against brutal batting orders on very flat pitches but none of them has demonstrated that X-factor that bowlers need in this era of flat pitches, mighty bats and smaller grounds. Umesh Yadav bowled some vicious spells in IPL but lacks that consistency. Shami has fitness and personal issues to deal with. Varun Aaron is not even on selector’s radar. Under present system, Mavi, Nagarkoti, Khalil and Rajpoot will probably have to put on impressive performances for 12-18 months to get a look in. Conclusion The purpose of this article is not to paint an overly negative or depressing picture of the current state. Like India, all other teams are also facing their own unique set of challenges. England lacks world class bowlers and will be under massive pressure to #BringItHome. Australia has serious re-building to do after Sandpapergate disaster. RSA is dealing with ABD’s retirement and the return of Amla to a more mortal form. NZ is like Belgium (Football Team) of cricket. A guaranteed semi-final pick but lack that firepower to go all the way. Pakistan and WI possess several match winners but do blow hot and cold. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have serious issues of their own. Here is hoping team management and selectors are paying attention to few of these issues and ensuring India goes well-prepared into the mighty important tournament.
1 pointIn contrast to the recent flow of things for this mighty Indian LOI team, they faced a decent-sized defeat at the hands of the three lions. Not only did this result spill life into the series and saved the 3rd ODI from becoming a dead contest, It was a vital speed-breaker that was necessary for India when looking at the larger picture i.e the upcoming WC. Morgan, to the joy of his counterpart, decided to bat first after winning the coin toss. The stats and team form showed that batting second was the key and the factors that led England to decide otherwise remain unclear. Perhaps, as Gambhir pointed out, it might have something to do with negating the effectiveness of the Indian spin-duo under the lights. The 1st Innings The first 15 overs or so went as per the script. The English openers got them off to a great start, like they always do. Kuldeep came in and picked up his customary set of wickets. What changed, to the relief of the English fans, was the sight of their main ace Root back to what he does best. A well compiled century while not only making sure that he held the fort against the Indian spinners but also scoring at a decent pace. Buttler fell early and Moeen wasn't any good either. the Indian bowlers were keeping things nice and clean until David Willy decided to go bonkers and gave England what they required to get to 320, which was just about at par given the conditions. The 2nd Innings Dhawan gave the innings a great start unleashing a set of exquisite cover drives. The Hitman, on the other end, took his own sweet time. Rahul fell cheap and India's innings was already in trouble. Kohli-Raina stitched together decent partnership but the RRR was always climbing and their pace would only mean one thing-pressure on the weakest part of this Indian team, the lower middle order. Dhoni again gave a masterclass on why he is a misfit at no.6 but Kohli easily brushed away this fact in the post-match press conference with an often used brush called 'off-day'. Once Raina was out in the 32nd Over, there was but little hope. India succumbed to a 86 run defeat. Not a lot of takeaways from this game for Team India. Only a couple of questions that Kohli and Shastri will have to find answers to. The series is now up for grabs and hopefully, India can pull it off and take a load of confidence going into the all-important test series. Sourab10Forever
1 pointA day after England’s loss to Croatia in the FIFA World Cup 2018 semifinals, a cricket match between two strongest ODI teams wasn’t expected to the hit headlines, but fireworks were always on cards given both teams have very explosive batting lineups. The match was played on the same ground where England had scored the highest ever ODI score three weeks ago. Indian captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to chase on what looked like great batting conditions. England started quickly as usual and absence of two front line bowlers - Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, meant that Indians didn’t find it easy to stop openers Roy and Bairstow. They were off to a flyer in powerplays before Kohli threw the ball to chinaman Kuldeep who has been in great form on this tour. An ill-fated reverse sweep by Jason Roy in 11th over started the downfall of the England team after that great start. Root looked absolutely clueless when he was caught plumb in next over of Kuldeep and a good review against Bairstow for what initially looked like ball pitching outside leg meant India had clamped down chances of a big score. England needed to rebuild after 3 quick losses, however captain Morgan couldn’t check his temptation to play a big shot against Chahal, only to be caught by Raina at midwicket. Kohli removed Kuldeep from attack after a 4 over spell allowing English batsmen Stokes and Buttler to rebuild innings. Together they added 93 runs. Buttler continued his great form and was fluent throughout his innings scoring at more than run a ball. Stokes, on the other hand, was scratchy and found it difficult to get going against all bowlers. Bringing back Kuldeep brought quick rewards for Indian teams as he dismissed Buttler to a faint edge down the leg in 39th over. England 214-5 by 44th over were hoping for Stokes and Ali get them close to 280 in 50 overs. However, Stokes who had been patient for longer earlier inexplicably decided to go after Kuldeep’s last over only to see his reverse sweep caught inside the circle. Wiley fell in the same over giving 6th wicket to Kuldeep - best haul for a spinner in England. Pacers failed to create much impact in good batting conditions and England were dismissed for 268 which didn’t look like a challenging score for a good chasing team at any point. Rohit and Dhawan started quickly before Dhawan fell to Moeen Ali as he tried to go after him. Once Kohli was at the crease, chase always looked in control complemented by Rohit’s unnatural attacking batting early in the inning. Sharma displayed a wide range of shots to completely annihilate the weak English bowling. He brought his 100 in just 82 balls and won the game for India in the 41st over after Kohli’s dismissal earlier. It was an easy win for the Indian team, but Kuldeep was easily the biggest difference between two sides who are occupying top 2 places in the ICC ODI rankings. If England has to compete with this in-form Indian team, they have to quickly find ways to tackle Indian wrist spinners who seem to be on a different zone with their accuracy, guile, flight, pace and skills on display. English bowling will be tested again and if they have to improve their 2019 world cup preparations, they need to seriously look into this department.
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