MSD, Middle Order & More: India Need to Buck Up Before Windies Tie
MSD, Middle Order & More: India Need to Buck Up Before Windies Tie
(Photo: AP)

MSD, Middle Order & More: India Need to Buck Up Before Windies Tie

India, slated to play West Indies next, barely survived a scare against Afghanistan in their previous match in the World Cup.

The Southampton clash revealed the weakness in the Indian batting line-up. The team surely missed the service of their opener Shikhar Dhawan. However, nursing a thumb injury, Dhawan is no longer an available resource.

At this juncture in the tournament, with nine points in their kitty, India seem just one win away from a semi-final berth.

In that scenario, India’s remaining matches against West Indies, England and Bangladesh are not only challenging but also a chance for the team to reorganise their batting reinforcements.

Remember, after the league stage, it would be the knock-outs and India can't afford a slip up.

As we inch closer to the business end of the World Cup, here's a look at the areas India need to rectify to put the house in order.

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Overdependence on Rohit & Virat

(Graphic: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)

India have always had a top-heavy batting line-up with bulk of the runs being scored by the top three. After Dhawan was ruled out of the World Cup with a fractured thumb, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli shouldered the responsibility. Though KL Rahul was promoted to replace Dhawan at the top, it was the captain and vice-captain duo that has continued to lead with the bat.

To give context, out of the 1,142 runs scored by India till now in the competition, Rohit and Virat have scored 564, which is around 50 percent of the total.

Coming into the match against Afghanistan, India’s middle-order had hardly spent any quality time in the middle, courtesy the exploits of Rohit and Virat.

But with Rohit and Virat back in the pavilion with still 20 overs to go, other batsmen could have made good use of the opportunity; but sadly that wasn’t that case. India could only manage 89 runs with the loss of four wickets.

Rahul Needs to Step Up

(Graphic: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)

It has been two matches since Rahul has been promoted to open the innings with Rohit, but he is yet to play his natural game at the top. Despite a half-century against Pakistan, the Karnataka batsman is far from convincing with the bat.

In the two matches, Rahul scored only 87 runs at a strike rate of 66.41, which is less than his career strike rate of 77.83 and tournament strike rate of 70.45. At the top of the innings, Rahul is either responsible to give his side a quick-start or play a long innings.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do either of the two.

Against Pakistan, Rahul gave away his wicket after playing a patient knock of 57 off 78 balls. In the next match, he had to really work hard for his 30, which came off 53 balls. But, his inability to rotate strike and hit a boundary got the better of him as he played an uncharacteristic reverse sweep to get out.

Rahul surely needs to get more than the odd 30s and 60s if India want to lift the Cup at Lord’s on 14 July.

Middle Order Dilemma

(Graphic: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)

India’s middle-order conundrum continues to plague the side in England. At the start of the tournament, KL Rahul was drafted into India’s middle-order in the highly debatable number four spot, after he scored a century in the warm-up match.

But Dhawan’s injury again spoiled the batting hierarchy as Rahul’s promotion left the number four spot vacant once again.

Since then we have seen how the middle order have performed. Against Afghanistan, they failed to bail India out.

Vijay Shankar did show promise with the bat but fizzled out eventually. His 29 wasn’t enough for a number four batsman. He also failed at rotating strike to keep the scoreboard ticking.

India’s most experienced campaigner MS Dhoni has also failed to perform his duties while batting in the middle-order. Dhoni’s inability to score at a faster rate has affected the team adversely.

If required Kedar Jadhav can be sent ahead of both Dhoni and Vijay. As a matter of fact, Hardik Pandya is also a good option since he has also learnt to pace his innings and now looks more than a pinch hitter.

Going into the business end of the World Cup, India need the middle-order batsmen to rescue the team if the top order fails.

Dhoni's Strike Rate

(Graphic: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)

What made Dhoni special as a batsman in all these years was his ability to keep the scoreboard ticking. His knack of rotating strike when boundaries fail to come has rescued India many a times. Apart from this, his talent of playing spinners and accelerating at will has also been an added advantage.

But nearing the fag end of his career, it seems like Dhoni is losing his ‘Midas Touch.’ In the last one year, he has been guilty of playing at an excruciatingly slow pace. If that wasn’t enough, Dhoni has ended up giving his wicket away after investing precious deliveries.

After a good IPL, it was believed Dhoni might find his way in the World Cup, and he had shown promise in the first few matches but the match against Afghanistan again found the old Dhoni missing. Striking at around 50, Dhoni managed 28 runs off 53 balls. He looked frail against the Afghan spinners.

With crucial matches lined up against West Indies, England and Bangladesh, Dhoni needs to buck up. If not big hitting, the former captain has to rotate strike for starters. If required, he should ask the team management to send him at number four if he wants to spend more time in the middle.

With Dhawan gone, Dhoni too has the additional responsibility to contribute big with bat, which is again a very important factor if India want to win their third World Cup.

Sixth Bowling Option

India managed to successfully defend a low score against Afghanistan with limited resources in the bowling department. They managed to survive the scare with only five bowlers at disposal since it was the not-so-fancy Afghanistan batting line-up.

But going into the big matches, India will surely need a sixth bowling option, a part-timer maybe. Against Afghanistan also it looked like India needed to bowl a Kedar Jadhav, especially when both Chahal and Pandya were going for runs against the Afghan pair of Gulbadin and Rahmat.

With England, West Indies and Bangladesh batting deep, having a sixth bowler won’t be a luxury but a necessity.

Shankar did well against Pakistan with the ball but didn’t bowl against Afghanistan due to his toe injury. Similarly, Jadhav has not been bowling to avoid aggravating his hamstring problem. If this problem continues, India shouldn’t think twice before drafting a Jadeja into the playing XI.

With a Jadeja at disposal, India will not only have a specialist sixth bowler but their lower order batting might also find an answer. And if the English wickets continue to behave the way they are behaving, having another spinner might be an advantage.

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