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ICC World Cup 2019: Analyzing the role of each player in the Indian team

Shaan Waseem
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
1.51K   //    Timeless

India enter the World Cup as favorites, alongside England.
India enter the World Cup as favorites, alongside England.

The years 1983 and 2011 will go down in Indian folklore, and you’re probably living under a rock if you don't know why. As the Indian team departs to the UK for the ICC World Cup 2019, the expectations of adding to the silverware are as high as they have been.

India are being touted as the favorites, alongside the much fancied English side. Any finish apart from a game on the 14th of July would be injustice to the quality and depth of talent that both these sides possess.

So what sets this Indian team apart? Here's a look at the squad and probable lineup at the marquee event.

Squad

Batsmen: Rohit Sharma (vc), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c).

All-rounders: Vijay Shankar, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya.

Wicket Keepers: Lokesh Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni.

Bowlers: Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal.

Predicted Playing XI

1) Rohit Sharma

2) Shikhar Dhawan

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3) Virat Kohli (c)

4) Vijay Shankar

5) MS Dhoni (wk)

6) Kedar Jadhav

7) Hardik Pandya

8) Kuldeep Yadav

9) Mohammed Shami

10) Yuzvendra Chahal

11) Jasprit Bumrah

The Rohit-Shikhar duo ranks 7th on the list of runs scored by a pair in ODI cricket, with 4500+ runs scored over a period of nine years. But this time around there is the added weight of expectation on their shoulders, with the middle order finding itself under scrutiny in recent times.

For a pair of players that have seemed unfazed by most challenges thrown their way, it’s unlikely that they would succumb under the pressure. But such is the cruel nature of sport that it doesn’t take long for the mighty to fall.

Speaking of mighty, India’s number three personifies that in every sense of the word, be it with his strokeplay or his lifestyle. Don’t read too much into Virat Kohli's IPL form, for the ODI format is something that this man knows like the back of his hand. Pacing an innings according to the team's needs is his forte.

For at least a couple of years now, Kohli has been stressing on this World Cup during interviews and post-match conversations. It’s about leaving behind a legacy that greats like Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and MS Dhoni have done; rest assured, Kohli wants every bit of it.

More than as a batsman, Kohli the captain is what I’m looking forward to over the next couple of months.

There has been an endless debate on the number four spot in this side. While it isn’t much of a fuss for most teams, it has become the central talking point for India.

Since the 2015 World Cup, at least six batsmen have played seven or more innings for India at number four. To be fair, nobody performed too badly (the worst being Manish Pandey, with an average of 37), but being a batsman in Indian cricket demands more than mediocrity.

The baton has finally been passed to Vijay Shankar, whose “three-dimensional” (yes, I said it) ability edged him ahead. Had Hardik Pandya been a 10-over bowler, Shankar would have probably not been preferred. The fact that he can chip in with a few overs and is an asset in the outfield is what swayed the selectors.

That’s not to take away from his batting ability; he out-batted Kohli for a brief while in the second ODI against Australia at Nagpur, matching him shot for shot. But the margin for error isn’t much, and I don’t see him being given a long rope at the World Cup with just those pretty 30s and 40s. It’s not easy to keep KL Rahul and Dinesh Karthik out of an ODI side for too long.

Although many wanted Dhoni at number four, I think he’s best suited for number five. The last thing India would want is to be three down on an overcast day, with Dhoni, Kohli and either of the openers back in the shed. Dhoni is an experienced campaigner who can keep the side strung together; he can control the game when he bats at five.

His experience down there would allow the likes of Jadhav and Pandya to express themselves at any point in the game. And when there is a sense of urgency, Dhoni tends to flourish. As he once said, "There is always more time than you think there is."

The finishing duties have been handed to Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya. While Jadhav endured a below-par IPL, Pandya enhanced his already existing reputation as India’s premier batting all-rounder.

Every time that Pandya walked out to bat there was a certain purpose and determination in him. And the swagger remained the same every time he sent the ball 20 rows back.

Jadhav is more of a top order batsman, but his strike rate in ODI cricket of over a 100 suggests that he has the ability to go big from ball one. Whether India finish at 300 or 330, will depend on how these two go.

Historically, with Indian sides, the batting has been the strong suit. But there is a role reversal with this team. It is blessed with three match-winners in the pace department (Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Shami), while the spinners (Kuldeep and Chahal) are a perfect complement.

Watching the bowlers do their thing in tandem is like a beautifully synchronized play, with each performer having a niche and craft of his own.

Just on current form, Shami would pip Bhuvneshwar by an inch. Shami has been lethal with the new ball, generating good bounce and seaming the ball at will. Of course, the extra yard of pace just adds to his impact too.

Unless conditions are really overcast, I don’t see Bhuvneshwar getting much of game-time during this World Cup. And his exclusion from the playing XI has got to do as much with Shami’s form as it has with the world class bowler that Bumrah is.

Bumrah is right up there among the very best, if not the best. You can count on him to bowl at any stage of the game and he won’t disappoint. If there’s someone out there that can stop a rampant Jos Buttler, it is Bumrah.

Judging by the kind of wickets that were prepared for the England vs Pakistan series, you need a bowler who can take the pitch out of the equation. And the spinners that India possess have contributed significantly to the transformation of the limited overs team post the 2017 Champions Trophy.

Kuldeep has baffled most batsmen with his mystery bowling and Chahal has deceived plenty with his guile. The pair share great chemistry and in a team sport, that’s always a plus point. Playing both of them does elongate India’s tail, but that is a price that I’d be willing to pay for a few extra wickets with the ball.

With Jadeja, you can expect around 50 runs being conceded for a maximum of 2 wickets, and his batting doesn’t instill much confidence either. But with Kuldeep and Chahal, there is the prospect of the two of them tearing through batting lineups.

If Pandya and Jadhav hold the key to India finishing at 300 or 330, Kuldeep and Chahal would determine whether Bumrah has the luxury to defend 90 or 60 runs in the last 10 overs.

As I mentioned earlier, this team would be bitterly disappointed with any finish outside of the finals. With the kind of arsenal at Kohli’s disposal, this might well be India’s best shot at the World Cup.

India do have their work cut out with South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan as the first four opponents. But intensity is something that they’ve never been short of, all the more under the captaincy of the fiery Virat Kohli.

Also read - Biggest world cup win

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