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Indian Cricket Team: Will Virat Kohli find a settled side?

ANALYST
Feature
551   //    22 Jan 2019, 00:11 IST

Certainly, the time has changed. Things have changed if one is to follow the recent trend of the 10-year challenge. Timidness is a thing of the past, and there is an unchallenged swagger about this Indian Cricket Team which is waiting to cast its magical spell in New Zealand in the much-hyped ODI Series ahead of the all-important ICC World Cup.

Australia v India - ODI: Game 3
Australia v India - ODI: Game 3

Confidence is high - and why not? The team has done what other Indian teams of the past could have only thought of. Winning against Australia, and that too in Australia, is not a small feat, and make no mistake - this is not a fluke.

Some will say that the Australian team was in disarray, some will say they missed the presence of their main pace battery, or they can button it down by saying that they missed Steve Smith and David Warner. Despite all this, the team was clinical enough to bounce back after a crushing defeat in Sydney. Irrespective of these historical stunts, the team still has some bases to cover.

The dependency on the trio and struggles of the middle order:

India is heavily dependent on the front three.
India is heavily dependent on the front three.

With all bases covered, a team can only expect to win a match only when it either sets a good target or chases it down quite clinically and India has done both the things quite comprehensively.

This has happened because of the upper order that the Indian team is blessed with. Yes, the trio of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli has scored more than 70% of the runs scored in the series prior to the last one, which means they have done the task of protecting the middle order and finishing the innings very profoundly. This in itself is a blessing to have.

Withal, this blessing can sometimes become a curse for the team. How?

The permeance of the matter is due to the dexterity of the front three; they may have sorted things out for India yet it has periled the middle order. The Indian team has considerably struggled whenever an opponent has breached the trident of this team.

The middle order was tested again and again when the team was in England or in Australia or even in the Asia Cup. In the Asia Cup, the players in the middle order found hard to breathe in crisis; in England, it fluffed and in Australia, the resurgence of MS Dhoni bailed India out of an unwanted series defeat.

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Regardless of the fact that Dhoni was quite slow to pace his innings; his composure in the crux situation was the one thing that made all the difference. However, depending solely on him in the middle order will be wrong; Ambati Rayudu was rusty, Dinesh Karthik with all due respect was good only as a finisher and Kedar Jadhav’s addition proved to be a decisive move to strike a good balance in the team.

Nevertheless, one cannot be satisfied and expect the middle order to repeat the same, knowing the fact that these performances come once in a blue moon.

Muddle in the middle:

To pile more on this situation there is some level of uncertainty regarding who is going to be the all-important number four in the team. Kohli is convinced that his number 4 will be either Rayudu or Karthik but not Dhoni. He can rightly provide some support to his case by saying that both these players can control and be aggressive as per the requirement of the situation but the big question here is will they be able to control the game the way Mr. DRS does? Probably not.

MS Dhoni's batting spot is still a debatable topic.
MS Dhoni's batting spot is still a debatable topic.

Howbeit, Rohit is convinced that Dhoni should be the best person to get the much debatable spot of the Indian team and to aid his matter he can bluntly put the veteran’s performance in the final ODI where the hotshot not only controlled the run of play but also helped the players to remain calm and composed notwithstanding the pressure surmounting on the players’ shoulders.

Precisely, this illustration is a good example of the prowess of the virtuoso to ideally be the one grabbing this spot in order to get the team ready for the World Cup or for the tour of New Zealand.

Shaping complexity:

No matter how many time people debate on the position of MS Dhoni, there still remains a certain degree of confusion when one looks forward to the recent team line-up. Though the team looks settled; besides that, the team lacked the heart of steel when it came to finishing.

Ravindra Jadeja, in all honesty, is not the same swashbuckling batsman as he used to be in the colored clothing. He is neither able to provide the support, nor he is able to gauge the team out when the team in trouble. To put this in plain words, the team needs a player like Hardik Pandya to put things straight for the team.

Hardik Pandya's exclusion has added more confusion to the tangled situation.
Hardik Pandya's exclusion has added more confusion to the tangled situation.

However, the player finds himself out of the team especially when the team needs him. It’s subjective to comment over his words uttered in the talk show but three matches were good enough to make the player realize what he did was wrong yet some officials believe that until a decision is not made by the committee the player should not be given the chance to play for the country.

Is this the right thing to do? Again, this is idiosyncratic. Where are the selectors or the captain when the player requires them the most? Why are they not interrupting? Are they too much worried about their own reputation?

Is BCCI trying to copy Cricket Australia? Even Cricket Australia reached an agreement overnight regarding the future of the players, then why is BCCI delaying it? Are they myopic to the obvious fact that the World Cup is just months away? What are they trying to do?

No one knows the answer to these questions apart from the officials sitting inside the meeting room. Even though the selectors named Vijay Shankar as his replacement for the ODI tour, the thing that instantaneously away comes to the mind is- will he be able to provide the balance as Pandya can do?

Though Shankar has a good reputation as an all-rounder and has stormed his way into the ODI side with some very strong performances in the first-class cricket, the question here is that- seeing the chopping and changing the environment of the team, does Shankar have the time to settle himself in this environment before the World Cup? The answer might be a no.

Nonetheless, the management somehow has failed to test the player owing to the presence of Pandya and why should they try when the latter can clock up to 145 kilometers per hour and this itself provides Kohli with an option to go with two spinners and two pacers, moreover, his batting finesse also creates a sense of calmness in the middle order.

For all that, this is the game of life you see, full of qualm, who knew he would go on a talk show and say things which will harm the decorum of the team and the player representing it, funny isn’t it? Alas! His absence will mean that the luxury enjoyed by Kohli and the team will be something which will be missing till the BCCI officials decide the fate of the player and also sets up a “good example” in front of the cricket fraternity.

Bowling woes and the sixth bowler:

Apart from losing balance due to Pandya's absence, the team looks dull in its bowling when it comes to the absence of Jasprit Bumrah. No doubt, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were good in the series against Australia but the bowling department lacked the ability to finish things at the death. Bumrah, with his pace and action, adds a new dimension to the team but his absence indicates the fact that the team still lacks the incisiveness it requires in the bench.

Kedar Jadhav looked handy but the combination prefer by Virat Kohli threatens his position in the team.
Kedar Jadhav looked handy but the combination prefer by Virat Kohli threatens his position in the team.

Take Australia of Ricky Ponting’s era or the current England team; both the teams have one thing in common- they don’t rely on one or two individuals. A team is said to be of the highest standard only when the players sitting on the bench can come from the bench and deliver solid performances. Hard to say but this Indian team lacks this thing.

This problem arises due to the team balance Kohli prefers. The skipper had a fixed set of five bowlers which included Pandya as well. Cut down to the current situation, the team plays with three pacers and a wrist-spinner which anywise not only extends the tail but also leaves Kohli, and more so, the Indian team high and dry.

In order to accommodate a sixth bowler or an all-rounder; dolefully there is a batsman who has to make way for an all-rounder as it was seen in the last ODI against Australia.

What’s Next:

With the rising complications and the unknown date of Pandya’s return to the action, Kohli and management have a lot to ponder over the solidity and balance of the team. What’s more is that this situation gives the Indian team to test the characters of the players especially against a balanced side in the form of New Zealand.

However, the real question here is- will these complications handicap the Indian team in the process of the World Cup and will the BCCI officials and selectors try to sort things out before it’s too late?

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