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India getting right combination in ODIs

Chetan Bhandi
ANALYST
Feature
366   //    30 Jan 2019, 01:15 IST

Indians have been ruthless in the ongoing series against NZ
Indians have been ruthless in the ongoing series against NZ

The resounding win at Mount Maunganui against host New Zealand in the third ODI ensured the dominating series victory for Indian Cricket team with two games to spare. The ongoing series which was expected to be a battle of equals between two strong ODI teams turned into a one-sided affair.

This series victory is the fourth consecutive one for Indians in ODIs! After winning prestigious Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates in September 2018, India thrashed West Indies 3-1 in a five-match series at home before conquering the Australian subcontinent.

Earlier this month the Asian giant overcame the Aussie challenge by winning the ODI series 2-1. Last year Indians had enjoyed limited over success in South Africa as well thrashing Proteas 5-1 in fifty-over format.

The domination against all major cricket playing nations have made Indians a clear favourite for the upcoming 50 over World Cup 2019. The prolonged success can be attributed to the formation of the right combination in all departments of the game.

Strong Top Order

One thing for India which has not changed since the last World Cup is the top order combination. Bulk of the success has come due to the "run tsunami" frequently formed by the star openers and the majestic No. 3.

Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been very consistent since World Cup 2015
Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been very consistent since World Cup 2015

The troika of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli has the combined experience of over 560 matches, forming the ocean of 23K runs and 76 centuries in ODIs! Each one is having the average of above 45 and hits at strike rate around 90! These mere numbers are enough to bring the morale down among the opposition ranks.

On top of that, the consistency with which the combination clicks makes the life even tougher for opponent bowlers. There have been very rare cases when all three of them have collectively not clicked making them the best top order among the contemporary teams.

Settled Dhoni factor

After the defeat in the first match in the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series, Mahendra Singh Dhoni came under severe criticism for his slow strike rate though he scored a face saving half century in that match after India were 3 down for just 4 runs chasing the target of 289.

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Dhoni has silenced his critics by claiming
Dhoni has silenced his critics by claiming "Player of the series" against Australia

But the ever cool Dhoni hit back in the next two matches with match winning unbeaten knocks of 55 and 87 winning the "Player of the Series" award. He has continued his form in the ongoing series against NZ as well smashing 33 ball 48 in the second ODI in which India batting first posted a mammoth 324!

As he continues to be peerless in the wicket-keeping role, Indian camp may be happy to see their best finisher back in his elements ahead of World Cup.

Slowly shaping up of Middle Order

India's relatively weak link in recent times has been its middle order i.e. No. 4 to No. 7. Since Dhoni is back to form, the other three positions are yet to be occupied by a fixed set of players.

Hardik Pandya, if remains fit and out of unnecessary controversies will be ideal at No. 7. His big-hitting abilities down the order combined with nippy medium fast bowling gives a great all-round option for Indians especially in England conditions.

For filling other two positions, the current choices of Indian Selectors have been Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik. Though all of them are among runs in current and previous series but India need a prolonged consistent show from all of them till the quadrennial mega event.

Kul-Cha effect

But the major winning factor in overseas conditions has come from the bowling department, that too from spinners! The combination of Kuldeep Yadav and Yajuvendra Chahal have been hugely successful in spinning the web for opponent batsmen.

The wrist spinner duo has accounted for 67 wickets in 15 ODIs played in South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand since Jan 2018. It comes to nearly 4.5 wickets per match which is simply incredible!

Kuldeep Yadav (left) and Yajuvendra Chahal - Lethal combination
Kuldeep Yadav (left) and Yajuvendra Chahal - Lethal combination

The impact of the duo is so much that the hugely successful finger spinner pair in Tests - Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are finding it very tough to find a place in the team in the smaller versions of the game!

"Coming of Age" pacers

Indian pace bowling attack comprising Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has been performing at its best in Tests since the tour of South Africa in Jan 2018. They have earned plaudits from every corner for their coming of age performances in overseas conditions.

In limited overs, though they appear to be in supporting role to Kuldeep-Chahal pair, but the new ball pair of Bhuvaneshwar and Shami have consistently provided early strikes for India denying the flying starts for the opponents in the first power play.

Mohammed Shami became the fastest Indian to join 100 wicket club in ODIs
Mohammed Shami became the fastest Indian to join 100 wicket club in ODIs

In the first match of ongoing Ind-NZ series, Shami playing in his 56th match became the fastest Indian to reach 100 wickets. Bumrah who has been rested for the current series is another lethal weapon India has in her armoury.

Momentum till World Cup

Having ticked almost all the check-points in ODIs, the only thing Indian think tank needs to do is to ensure the fitness and match readiness of all the key players till World Cup which is scheduled in mid of this year in England.

After the NZ series and before the mega event there is only one International series for India which is at home against Australia. But there is twelfth edition of IPL as well which players don't want to miss. From their side they need to ensure they are not fatigued by the league which is played in the hot summer of India.


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