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India’s middle-order riddle poses a challenge for the team management ahead of the 2019 World Cup

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
8.13K   //    17 Mar 2019, 10:07 IST

Ashton Turner
Ashton Turner

On March 13, at Ferozshah Kotla cricket ground in New Delhi, resurgent Australia scripted a history much to the disappointment of Indian fans. Kangaroos put an end, to a decade-old drought after clinching the five-match ODI series 3-2 against India in their own backyard. After a win at Mohali where exciting Ashton Turner turned the tables for Australia while chasing the humongous target of 359 runs, the series stood poised for the virtual finale in the country’s capital.

In the fifth game in Delhi, Aussie bowlers exposed the cracks in the Indian middle-order. While chasing a target of 272 runs, India had a dismal start.

Aussies bowlers bowled judiciously, Shikhar Dhawan was sent back to hut in the first powerplay. So, was Men in Blue skipper Virat Kohli, who notched up two hundreds in this series. Dhawan made 12 and Kohli scored 20, as Rohit Sharma returned after playing a rash shot.

Rishabh Pant scored run-a-ball 16 attributed with one six and a four. Vijay Shankar 16 and Ravindra Jadeja went without troubling the scorers. Kedar Jadhav and Bhuneshwar Kumar strung a record-partnership of 91, but it was not enough to cross over the line. Jadav made 44 and Bhuvneshwar put up 46.

Thus, with a flurry of wickets, India was bundled out on 237 and Australia registered a comprehensive 35-run win despite being written-off as a team of novice before the kick-off of tournament. Australia peaked at the right time in a bid to defend the title in the upcoming World Cup.

The erratic performance of middle-order batsmen doesn’t augur well for India in the upcoming World Cup. If we break down the performance of Indian batsmen in the series then the under par performance would definitely ring an alarm in the cricketing landscape of the country.

Indian opener and white-ball vice-captain Rohit who bats upfront for India for years now scored 37,0,14,95,56 in this series. The numbers do not lie, but it clearly makes it apparent that Rohit has failed to capitalise on the starts.

More to it, Rohit added a duck to his international tally. But the innings at Mohali and Ferozshah Kotla give a silver lining to Indian fans after he scored two consecutive fifties.

Dhawan hasn’t fired the way he was expected to. Except for Mohali innings where his willow did the talking to slam his 16th ODI ton, he was tamed well by the Aussie bowlers. His numbers of 0,21,1,143 and 12 in five matches tell us what he was up to when the World Cup is a few months to go.

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Kohli scored 44,116,123,7,20 in five ODI. Though Kohli notched up two centuries in the series, he didn’t rise to the occasion when it mattered the most. Indian batsmen Kedar Jadhav in his five innings accumulated 81,11,26,10 and 44.

Except for the first and last match – where he showed some mettle and class, he didn’t leave any mark what many would have had thought of.


Ahead of the quadrennial grandee, the chinks in the middle-order are too apparent to ignore for the team management.
Ahead of the quadrennial grandee, the chinks in the middle-order are too apparent to ignore for the team management.

Coming to wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, he scored 36 and 16 in the last two One-dayers after MS Dhoni was rested for the remainder of series. Dhoni piled up 59, 0 and 26 in his three innings. Pant’s dismal show behind the stumps drew flak and made competition between him and Dinesh Karthik literally a bone of contention to look at during the impending Indian Premier League (IPL).

Ambati Rayudu’s dismal show continued as he scored 13 and 18. The numbers lay bare the erratic performance of Indian star-studded batting line which Australian bowlers didn’t allow to get into a groove in the recently-held series.

Vijay Shankar strung 46, 32, 26 and 16 runs in his four innings. He bowled 17.3 overs to bag two scalps. The lanky bowler got both wickets at Nagpur. Though he was frugal in leaking runs he was lacking in getting his rhythm right.

Kedar Jadhav, who of late shot to prominence due to some of his exploits in the cricketing field with an unusual action, too, scored 81,11,26,10 and 44 respectively in the five ODIs. He also sent down 23 overs in this series picking to pick two wickets. In two matches at Ranchi and Mohali respectively, he was taken to the cleaners. At Ranchi, he bowled just two overs and gave away 32 runs and at Mohali, in his five overs, he went for 44 runs.

The Gujarat-based all-rounder, Jadeja made 21, 24, and nought in three innings of the series. In his 40 overs, Jadeja leaked runs aplenty (190 runs) to take two scalps. Does this performance earn him the berth in the World Cup?

The above statistics taken from the recently concluded series makes it amply clear that the chinks in the Indian middle-order are too apparent to ignore. Rayudu looked out of sorts and Jadhav still needs to excel in a crunch situation of the game. Pant looked in a hurry which subsequently became his undoing. He hasn’t proved to be an appropriate replacement of Dhoni behind the stumps. His shoddy attempts behind stumps prompted spectators to chant the name of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

As finishing exemplar in MSD wears off, India struggles to find someone who could take the match down to the wire and romp them home. Too many problems in the batting line up on which once cricketing connoisseurs and fans boasted about certainly pushes the team management to find an immediate solution ahead of the ODI showpiece.

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