2019 World Cup: Team India's World Cup rehearsal
This summer is not just about Kohli vs Anderson and Broad in the seaming English wickets in the longer format. The limited-overs will be seen as a precursor for the World Cup next year. Captain Kohli and Head coach Ravi Shastri would definitely be keen to get the team composition right.
Over the years, we were never really worried about our batsmen and it was always the bowling unit that was inefficacious in foreign conditions. Conversely, Team India’s bottom 5 looks solid and settled. Led by the dexterous pair Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah in the pace department, a fast bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya is a blessing in these conditions. Team India being team India is expected to play at least one spinner in either of Yuzvendra Chahal or Kuldeep Yadav. Washington Sundar would be hoping to produce some magic to stay in the race. Sundar hasn’t been too impressive this IPL for the Royal Challengers, but his ability to contribute with the bat down the order may be in the back of the mind of the selectors. If Team India decides to go with 3 genuine quicks, this tour will be a significant battle between the experienced Umesh Yadav and mighty impressive Siddharth Kaul to grab that spot. Shardul Thakur is the Washington Sundar equivalent in the pace department hoping for wizardry. The bowling unit looks quite settled with team India switching between 2 genuine quicks and 2 spinners and 3 quicks and 1 spinner depending on the playing conditions.
This IPL has been a blessing in disguise for team India’s batting woes. India has been struggling to get the combination right in the middle and lower middle order for the past 2 years. They have tried a myriad of players in Ajinkya Rahane, Kedhar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer and Dinesh Karthik. All this IPL has done to this unsettled middle order is to add more confusion in the form of Ambati Rayudu who has been absolutely scintillating for the Chennai Super Kings.
The biggest positive of this year’s IPL is, of course, the form of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. MSD is back to his vintage best and with Hardik Pandya’s decent form with both bat and ball, one has to say it has calmed India’s lower middle order worries. Dhoni’s role behind the stumps marshaling his spinners in the middle overs and controlling the field placements at the death with Kohli usually placing himself at long off can never be questioned. With Dhoni reinventing his finesse finishing skills, you cannot ask for more.
A nice to have a problem for Kohli and Shastri is the remarkable form of Lokesh Rahul at the top of the order for the Kings XI Punjab. India has always been facing this problem in Test cricket with KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan fighting for the opening slots with ephemeral Abhinav Mukund. However, the limited overs had a quite settled top 3 in Dhawan, Rohit, and Kohli. With Rahul striking purple patch and given the current form and English record of Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli may be tempted by the play these 2 at the top. Nobody prefers Virat Kohli changing his batting position from 3, which means Rohit might go back to where he started and where he was unsuccessful before his promotion to the top of the order. The other option is the stick with Rohit at the top and plays Rahul at 4. In my opinion, Team India will be hoping for Rahul to fire at 4 which can solve their long-lasting middle order mess than trying to change their successful top 3.
Further, the biggest problem with this Indian team is what Harsha Bhogle pointed out recently. With team India losing the services of Kedar Jadhav due to injury, no one from the top 6 could contribute even a 5-over spell given a bad day for one of our main bowlers. One of the main reasons for India’s triumph in the 2011 World Cup was Yuvraj Singh with the ball. Team India desperately lack a batting all-rounder who can roll his arm over for a quick spell. India would be badly hoping for Suresh Raina to get back but bouncers in English pitches is still a nightmare for the southpaw. With the selectors neglecting Ravi Ashwin and Jadeja, It looks almost certain that they won’t make it to the 15 member squad for the 2019 WC.
Team India will be yearning for this England tour to solve their middle order problems ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. It has a lot to offer and the number 4 and number 5 spots are up for grab. The stage is all set for a cracker of a series. All the best Team India.