India's middle order remains the key to their World Cup prospects
India registered another mighty series win against the Aussies and the Kiwis in one-day international series played between the two sides. Dhoni masterfully guided the team to victory in Australia on two instances, emphatically answering critics that were calling his form into question. With his Midas touch back and Virat Kohli slamming century after century, India looked a complete unit out on the field. They didn't even bat an eye when the BCCI decided to penalize the squad regulars Hardhik Pandya and KL Rahul for their controversial appearance on chat show Koffee with Karan.
The only blip for India in the one-day series was the first match when a top-order collapse showed the fragility of the sides middle order. Since the start of 2018, India has tested 11 batsmen between 4-7 batting positions in ODIs, and yet the problems remain. The side has probably the most feared top three in world cricket at this point, a prolific machine that does not seem to be stopping any time soon.
India's success in the forthcoming world cup lies in its top order, which has plundered away more than 64.15% of the total runs since 2017. MS Dhoni's onslaught in the recently concluded series goes to show how important it is to have a fit and firing man down the innings that can carry the bat deep with the tail. Granted Pandya will eventually join the side and balance the team before the World Cup, the story remains largely the same for the opposition. Get the top order within the first fifteen overs and you have a decent chance of beating the men in blue.
In 15 matches played in the 2018 season, India’s middle order managed 796 runs at an average of 25.67, with a strike rate of 79. Only one batsman managed to post a score in excess of 50 runs, Ajinkya Rahane, who is not a surety for England.
Amabti Rayudu and KL Rahul are good players but neither can guarantee the side victory in ODIs. They are still at an early stage of their career and need time to groom themselves to become the next Laxman or Dravid. This means India will be relying on MS Dhoni to do the bulk of the heavy lifting in case the side finds itself three down with not a lot of runs on the board.
A way around this would be to identify the batsmen that will form the fulcrum of their middle order aspirations in the upcoming mega tournament. IPL franchises can then be urged to bat these men higher up the order so that they can get more experience in batting under extreme pressure. The best among them can then be selected and form part of the England touring squad.
The 2011 World Cup was won largely with the help of allrounders in Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. India certainly is spoilt for choices in that department currently, with the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav competent choices to provide team India with much-needed balance.
India has all to play for in the World Cup, with many experts tipping it as the hot favourite to win the tournament comfortably. If the side gets its middle order firing, then no one can stop them from repeating their 2011 heroics on cricket's grandest stage.