ICC World Cup 2019: 4 Concerns that India should iron out in the warm-up games
Team India’s World Cup campaign gets underway with a match against South Africa on 5th June 2019. Before that, India are playing two warm-up games against New Zealand on 25th May and against Bangladesh on 28th May 2019.
These two warm-up games are crucial for India to address the shortcomings in their squad and to iron out the weaknesses. As such, there are some inherent weaknesses in the squad for which there is no solution in sight. The absence of a regular No. 4 batsman, the absence of a left-hander in the middle order and a left-arm fast bowler are some of the few issues the team are confounded with going into the World Cup.
These two warm-up games should help the team management to identify the best playing XI before going into the tournament proper.
On the eve of India’s warm-up match against New Zealand, let us analyze the areas of concern for Team India which should be addressed before the start of the mega event.
#1 To try KL Rahul at the No. 4 position
KL Rahul is basically an opener. But in the present Indian team, there is no vacancy at the top. Hence, if Rahul has to be accommodated in the playing XI, it has to be in the middle order at No. 4. Any position below No. 4 in the batting order for Rahul wouldn’t be in the team’s interest. Hence, Rahul should be given a go as the team's No. 4 batsman in the warm-up games to ascertain how well he plays the spinners and whether he is able to rotate the strike.
#2 To try out Vijay Shankar's bowling
Vijay Shankar has taken the place of a specialist batsman in the squad on the premise that he could be handy with the ball too. His ability or lack of it with the ball could be appraised only if he is given an extended spell with the ball. He should be made to believe that he could contribute with the ball with four to five overs in every match. Shankar should be given more number of overs to bowl in the warm-up games to explore the all-rounder in him.
#3 To test Kedar Jadhav’s fitness as a bowler
Kedar Jadhav is back after the shoulder injury he suffered in the IPL. Jadhav should be able to justify his place in the playing XI only when he is fully fit to contribute with the ball as well.
Jadhav playing purely as a batsman is as good as Rahul or a Dinesh Karthik. It is his unorthodox bowling that presents India with an additional option. Hence Virat Kohli should stretch Jadhav's fitness as a bowler in the warm-up games.
Jadhav didn't bowl a single over in the recently concluded IPL. Besides, India might go in with only one wrist-spinner in the first couple of World Cup matches in which case, his role as a part-time spinner could be crucial.
If Jadhav is not fully fit to contribute with the ball, the team would be better off with Rahul at No. 4, Vijay Shankar at N.o 5 and MS Dhoni at No. 6. Conversely, if the team are looking for a finisher like Jadhav, India should look to promote Dhoni to No. 4, Shankar to No. 5 and play Dinesh Karthik at No 6.
Team India should make use of the two warm-up games to identify the best batting combination in the middle-order.
#4 To identify the wrist-spinner who is in form
With due regard to South Africa’s inherent weakness to wrist-spinners, India might still go in with only wrist-spinner in the playing XI. In the early part of the English summer, there is every likelihood that the game could be influenced by wet weather.
On such overcast English conditions, the additional pace bowler could be more effective than a wrist-spinner. Besides, Kuldeep Yadav had a poor IPL. His current form in a 50-over game has to be assessed in the two warm-up games. He and Yuzvendra Chahal should be given preference over the pace bowlers in the warm-up games to choose one between the two.
To sum up, the warm-up games are not normally taken seriously by teams, more so by India in the past. But this time, it should be different as the team management seeks answers for multiple snags in the team composition.