No answers to key questions ahead of World Cup

WAKE UP CALL: India experimented through their last three ODIs and but it didn’t provide them with the answers they were seeking. PTI File Photo

The Indian bull run, which had trampled many a tough challenger in alien conditions in the last one and half years or so, was stopped finally by an inspired Australian side in their own backyard, perhaps much against tourists’ own expectations.

Trailing the series 0-2, the Aaron Finch-led side, which clearly lacked depth in experience and quality compared to the hosts, reversed the deficit to clinch the series 3-2 thus ending India’s unbeaten record at home under Virat Kohli’s leadership. The last series before the World Cup should have helped India tick all their 15 spots but the defeat, coming close on the heels of a T20I series loss, has left them with a few questions to answer.

Even before this series began, India’s core of at least 13 players had confirmed its berth for the quadrennial event. The fight was only about the remaining two places in the squad, but one isn’t sure if the team was able to button down the two personnel.

Admittedly, India experimented through their last three ODIs and much to their disappointment, it didn’t provide them with the answers they were seeking. Ambati Rayudu doesn’t inspire confidence at No 4, Kedar Jadhav can’t be relied upon to turn his arm over all the time and Rishabh Pant needs a lot of fine-tuning both in front and behind the wickets. In his only chance, K L Rahul didn't do much either. 

Sandwiched between the top and the lower-middle order, No 4 is a crucial position. You need to be versatile with the right technique and temperament to either drop anchor or accelerate depending upon the situation. Rayudu has done it only intermittently in recent times, forcing the team management to bench him for the last three ODIs.

Sooner or later, Jadhav’s round-arm deliveries were going to lose their novelty value and they did so emphatically in this series leaving Kohli with less bowling options. It’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to call the right-hander an all-rounder; he can at best be used like how Dhoni would utilise Suresh Raina. The lack of pure all-rounders, like the injured Hardik Pandya who can be relied upon to bowl at least eight or more overs on a consistent basis, exposed India’s bowling limitations.

That is why someone like Vijay Shankar, with an ability to bowl five-six overs and bat explosively in the lower middle-order, could be an ideal candidate to go in with. The Tamil Nadu all-rounder provides India with the depth both in batting and bowling. This is particularly necessary as the Indian bowlers, with the sole exception of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, are mere slouches with the bat.   

Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja did present his case well at the start but as the series wore on, he wasn’t the same force. Moreover, his bowling needs ideal conditions all the time for it to be effective while his batting is unreliable. Can he be chosen as a back-up option for Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal ahead of a specialist reserve batsman, say someone like Rahul?

Says “no” former India pacer Javagal Srinath (see his column). He wants just one wrist spinner in the squad and wants a specialist to do the opener’s job and not some stopgap arrangement.

While India, the World No 1 team, will hope these rough edges will be polished during the course of the ensuing IPL, they also need to worry about their falling fielding standards. Understandably, India have set a high standard for themselves over the last few years but against Australia, they were quite ordinary on more than one occasion. The attitude and approach of a team often get reflected in its fielding, and India’s out-cricket mirrored their series loss. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to haunt them at the World Cup.       

 

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No answers to key questions ahead of World Cup

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