How India failed to make full use of the West Indies series
With just 18 games to go before India begin their quest for their third World Cup title, the side began the limited overs series against a second string West Indies. The primary aim going into the series was to test the bench strength and also to get balance in the side. Apart from these, what the team could have done was give the middle order enough time in the middle, which despite opportunities, the management did not execute as it should have.
The much talked about number 4 slot finally seems to have an owner, not because Rayudu performed exceptionally well, but because Kohli showed faith in him and stated that Rayudu will be the preferred batsman at that slot in the World Cup.
The slot which caused a lot of headache till now is now settled.
But the middle-muddle was not just about the number four slot, it was also about deciding the correct slots for the entire middle order and put them to tests by giving them more game time. But what we saw, was Virat and Rohit enhancing their already enhanced form and the likes of Kedar, Dhoni and Jadeja not getting enough time in the middle.
Jadhav, who will undoubtedly be the finisher for India in the World Cup, has been in and out of the team over the past year or so due to recurring injuries. And whenever he gets a chance, it is either in really tough situations or situations where he does not have enough balls to face. This series was the perfect platform where he could have got more time in the middle, especially in the last match, where the target was just 105.
For Dhoni, yes he could have done better with whatever chances he got, but for him to get back to form, the only way is to give him more time in the middle. Also, India needed Jadeja, the batsman, to prove himself in limited overs, which too did not happen.
Why this is going to haunt in future?
India have excelled in every ICC Tournament in this decade, but have failed to finish at the top in most cases. The recent one being the Champions Trophy 2017 final, where the top order fired all through the tournament, and failed against a gutsy Pakistani bowling line up, exposing the previously untested middle order.
What happens is, with the dominant top 3 that India have, it is almost a given that they will not fail against comparatively weaker attacks or when pressure is not much against stronger attacks. But when they fail, it is mostly against stronger attacks in pressure situations.
And this is where the middle order gets exposed. All those heaps of runs scored by the top 3 throughout the tournament are of no use if the team does not go on to win.
The top 3 are bound to fail some day, there is no denying about that, but for that day, the middle order needs to be made prepared enough. For the middle order to be ready to tackle such situations, they need enough time in the middle. Since game time is what makes everyone more experienced. No matter how hard they practice in the nets, they will not gain the confidence until they get the shots right during the games.
That, at present, is not happening in Indian cricket. The top order has been exceptional over the past couple of years and the middle order has been equally poor. The dominant top order has been a blessing to the Indian team, but at the same time, it has its own demerits.