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India's middle order batting problems and muddled thinking when it came to selection decisions were the main reason for their exit from the World Cup.

By Giri (14th July, 2019)

 

Let us start by saying that India had a great World Cup 2019. Despite all the adversities and losing their first choice players to injury, India pulled through well to make the semi-finals as the table toppers. But again their frailties in the batting finally caught up with them when it mattered the most. 

Before the start of the tournament, Indian middle order was most talked about in the media and the fans alike as an area of concern. The uncertainty of the number four position and the batting that followed did not inspire much confidence among fans.

When KL Rahul scored that hundred against Bangladesh in the warm up game, it seemed as if India had found their right XI but again injury to Shikhar Dhawan after the Australia game unsettled the balance again. India went with Vijay Shankar in their next two games and an injury to him meant Rishabh Pant came in for the latter half. India also was uncertain about their number six position with Kedar Jadhav starting off the tournament only to be replaced by Dinesh Karthik in the final few games which wasn’t that successful either.

The biggest problem for India was they couldn’t come up with a settled XI through the tournament and that hurt them in the end. The reliance on the top order and the constantly changing middle order did not allow them to settle through the tournament. The success of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli along with some good bowling allowed India to sail through the league phase but again the luck finally ran out in the knock-out game. 

This has been the problem with the Indian team over the last couple of years and this is the reason that it’s not allowed the team to settle to a first XI due to the same reason. The success of England over the last couple of years has been their clarity in selections and trusting their top six which India weren’t able to do throughout the tournament. The bowling line up also suffered the same fate as the pace bowlers were switched and so were the spinners. Except for Jasprit Bumrah, none of the other bowlers got a consistent run in the XI. Mohammad Shami who bowled brilliantly with the new ball and picked up wickets wasn’t even played on a track in the semi-final where he could have been lethal.

Virat Kohli's indecisions as a captain in the selection of a settled XI showed a little bit of panic within the team management. Now that the World Cup has ended and the team would be doing some retrospection, they need to keep in mind that there need not be any harsh or emotional decisions at the moment. India did do well in the tournament and there need not be any change in the team management. Virat Kohli for all his frailties with the team selections was good as a captain on field and pulled India through some tough games in the tournament with his own special brand of leadership. 

The ODI team has seen too many changes over the last four years and the captain and coach need to settle for a set of players and back them and give them a sustained run. This was lacking over the last four years cycle that has culminated into this middle order mess which India find themselves in. The bowling attack also needs to be looked at. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done well for India in the ODIs but again his lack of wickets with the new ball continues to hurt India in the shorter formats. The wrist spinners had a bad tournament but again they need to be given confidence and should continue playing in the ODI team.

The next World Cup is to be played in India in 2023 and India need to rework their middle order to make sure they don’t fall into the same muddle this time. Players like Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal need to be given consistent run in the ODI team. Even though Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were brilliant in this tournament, India need to build a pool of young pace bowlers as a back-ups. Navdeep Saini, Khaleel Ahmed, Shivam Mavi, Prasidh Krishna and Kamlesh Nagarkoti need to get games over the next four years for India to have a better bench strength which they were lacking this time prior to the tournament.

Even though the exit in the semi-finals was disappointing, the tournament wasn’t a poor one for the Indian contingent. Whilst there is a need for changes and yes, there is lots of room for improvement in terms of skill and team composition but again that needs to happen organically over the next couple of years.

 

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