Team India Status Update: From Problem of Plenty to Plenty of Problems
Australia has kept the ongoing ODI series against India alive by winning the third ODI at Ranchi by 32 runs. Now the series score reads 2-1 in favor of India with two matches in Mohali and New Delhi to go.
The Australian series which started for India on a bright note has not gone exactly as per the script. Before the series started, India had the problem of plenty and a pool with too many players to choose from. The team was on a high with series wins against Australia and New Zealand and had a solid look with only one or two places to fill for the World Cup squad.
But the slide started from the T20I series in New Zealand followed by the defeat in the home T20I series against Australia. India barely managed to win the first two ODIs against Australia who were without David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Then came the harsh reality at Ranchi when Australia achieved a facile win against the formidable Indian side. Now, from a position of the problem of plenty, the Indian cupboard has suddenly become bare with no one to choose from. The pity is that this has happened at home against the depleted Aussie team.
The abundance of problems
The dreadful form of the openers
In the current series, Rohit has scores of 37,0 & 14. His big daddy hundred is yet to arrive in the series. Dhawan’s last 10 innings in white ball cricket have fetched him scores of 28,13,6,29,30,5,14,0,21 & 1, a clear sign that he is woefully out-of-form. Dhawan’s casual efforts to hit his way out of trouble haven't produced the desired results so far.
Ambati's Abysmal form
Ambati Rayudu’s place is in danger for the World Cup. He has never been impressive at No 4 despite being given an extended opportunity in that position. He has never been a match-winner in the middle-order like a Yuvraj Singh or an anchorman like a Rahul Dravid.
In the current series, Rayudu has continued to struggle with scores of 13,18 & 2. It is time now for the selectors to look beyond Rayudu before it is too late. Someone like an Ajinkya Rahane could be a like-for-like replacement for Ambati Rayudu.
With MS Dhoni rested for the last two ODIs and Rishabh Pant to replace Dhoni instead of Rayudu, Amabti gets one final opportunity to prove himself.
Ravindra Jadeja’s undefined role in the team
Ravindra Jadeja came into the squad as a late replacement for the injured Hardik Pandya. But he has failed in his primary role as a bowler and taken a solitary wicket in his 30 overs in the series. Jadeja’s failure has hampered India’s wicket-taking abilities in the middle-overs which was Team India’s secret of success not long ago.
Even in the batting department, Jadeja has not been his usual fluent self since he has been under tremendous pressure to play for his place in the team. In the past, Jadeja has proved to be an effective all-rounder at No 7 rather than at No 8 where he struggled to do justice to his all-around abilities.
The bowling all-rounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar at No 8 followed by the two wrist-spinners and Bumrah should give a more balanced look to the bowling department. The openers are expected to come good at some point in time and once that happens, Jadeja might become redundant at No 8.
The IPL conundrum
India would have got 5 more ODIs before the World Cup, but for the IPL. Now it remains to be seen whether a different format like the IPL could enable players like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Ambati Rayudu to get back into striking form. But for a bowler like Jadeja, the IPL format could only further dent his confidence ahead of the World Cup.
The saving grace
The saving grace for India has been the excellent form of Virat Kohli who has now scored 15 individual ODI hundreds since 2017 which is more than the total team scored by Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Bangladesh in that period. A remarkable achievement.
Vijay Shankar has been most impressive since his debut and both Bumrah and Kuldeep have been excellent with the ball.
Going into the last 2 ODIs before the World Cup, India should make a lot of changes in order to experiment with the reserve players. Rahul for Dhawan, Pant for the rested Dhoni, Chahal for Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for Shami are the expected changes.
To sum up, India are not exactly in a comfortable position, in terms of the psychological advantage as well as the form of the players and the availability of resources ahead of the World Cup. But the moment one or two players turn the corner, the picture would suddenly look rosy again. It would be once again back to the problem of plenty. But time is the essence of this turnaround in fortune.