3 key factors for India to win the World Cup
Asia Cup 2018 is done and dusted. India kicked off their campaign against Hong Kong as the prohibitive favorites to win the tournament. They lived up to the tag of favorites and emerged as Asia Cup 2018 champions, for a record seventh time, when they defeated a spirited Bangladesh side in a close final in Dubai.
India's performance in the tournament was clinical and dominant. However, their final against Bangladesh was particularly revealing. Bangladesh was able to expose India's vulnerable middle order earlier than India would have liked and they were able to put pressure on India's front line bowlers at the start of the innings.
It's no secret that India's ODI matches are effectively auditions for players hoping to make the squad for the World Cup next year. Of particular concern to the team management has been India's inability to nail down a reliable middle order. At the end of the Asia Cup, India is no closer to solving that conundrum than they were at the start of the tournament.
India is among the favorites to win the World Cup next year in England. It helps that most of the players that are expected to be part of the World Cup squad played in the recently concluded India vs England series in England. They gained invaluable experience playing in English conditions and that experience will come handy when the team embarks on its journey to win the World Cup.
The debate on who should bat at the number 4 position in India's batting line-up has been ongoing in Indian cricketing circles for some time now. Former players, pundits, commentators, and fans have been suggesting names of potential "ideal" candidates for that position. There is no question that that debate is a valid one. However, it is important to put that problem in context.
India is not going to win the World Cup simply by finding the right candidate for the number 4 batting slot. Rather, it must form a team that comprises of the following three elements that will determine its success.
#3 Depth in Batting Line-up
India's batting line-up enjoys a rich reputation for being formidable. It has the ability to post or chase a total in the vicinity of 300 runs. However, it's the top three batsmen- Rohit Sharma, Shikar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli- who have been largely responsible for scoring a majority of those runs. To beat India, India's opponents will devise strategies to get to India's middle order as early in the innings as possible. To counter that, India's approach has been to find that solid number 4 batsman who can deliver like the top three do. But, it's clear, after the England tour and the Asia Cup that the chances of landing such a "savior" are remote.
So, instead, India should seek to build a batting line-up that bats deep- right to the number 9 position. Of course, this has to be done keeping the team balance and the bowling requirements in mind.
#2 Two all-rounders in playing XI
The re-introduction of Ravindra Jadeja in the ODI set-up is a major positive for India. His success in the Asia Cup both as a batsman and a bowler gives India more options, in terms of having the ability to bat deep. With Pandya and Jadeja as the all-rounders, India will have in its line-up a total of 8 proper batsmen. In English conditions, having an extra batsmen can be the match-defining difference while chasing a big total or posting a solid one.
Moreover, to be able to do so without compromising the bowling options is an even rarer luxury to have. India can then go into the World Cup with 8 proper batsmen, including the all-rounders, and a battery of six bowlers- 3 pacers and 3 spinners. This is the kind of structure of the batting line-up that is designed to compensate for India's potential vulnerable number 4 batsman.
#1 Effective Front-line bowlers
This is one area where India is ready for the World Cup. It's two pacers- Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar- are two of the finest ODI bowlers in the world. They are familiar with English conditions; and, their ability to deliver yorkers at will, during the death-overs, has become an object of envy for teams around the world. In addition, India has a mystery spinner in Kuldeep Yadav who has proven lethal even in English conditions. He has demonstrated, time and again, that his captain can rely on him to get a break-through.
So, if India can formulate a team with these three elements embedded in it, they can be rest assured that their chances of winning the World Cup will have been maximized.