Team India under Virat Kohli should win ‘key moments’; especially when playing outside the sub-continent
Rohit Sharma aptly dispensed his duties as a captain in the recently concluded Asia Cup. Team India under HIT-man had the pressure to deliver as they were tagged overwhelming favourites to defend their Asian supremacy; even without key-batsman and regular captain- Virat Kohli.
What Ravi Shastri and management had to face, was the adjustment in conditions: shifting from cooler English conditions to a warmer and humid Middle-East climate in Dubai. Most importantly, India being the most highly ranked team among fellow Asian participants, had to make amends for the loss in England. The fans expected Rohit & co. to defend the title, even if they had to struggle for it.
Hardly anyone would have expected the new entrants in the cricket map –Hong Kong and Afghanistan to put up stellar performances; better than teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka. At one point of time, an unrealistic result like HK defeating India seemed possible when captain Anshuman Rath and Nizakat Khan put up a humongous 174 runs partnership in a run-chase of 285, which looked easily achievable until chinaman Kuldeep Yadav made the break-through.
Similarly, the tied game against Afghanistan saw a see-saw battle between both the sides as the game tilted in overs. Though two poor umpiring decisions against MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik hurt India, but at the same time, was it right for the think-tank to rest both the in-form openers together despite being aware of the bowling might that Afghanistan possesses?
India were scrutinized by the media for their performance in England, which replicated similar records at the end like the previous tours. However, what was discussed the most was that the 1-4 result could have been 4-1 had India won some of the key moments.
Had India went on to win the crucial moments in the Tests at Birmingham, Southampton and The Oval- the story of the series would have been different. On the other hand, England went on to win those key moments and capitalize on them to win the above-mentioned Tests. Whenever required, guys like Sam Curran, Josh Buttler and Moeen Ali bailed out their team from troublesome situations.
Post the Champions Trophy final loss to Pakistan, Team India has the highest win percentage of 79.41, whereas the once invincible Australia has the lowest win percentage of 13.33. India has assured world cricket that the CT17 final loss was just an aberration. Even the Pakistani legend Wasim Akram recently agreed to it in a TV show, saying that Pakistan winning the final was just a ‘fluke’.
India might have lost the CT 2017 final perhaps because of that ‘no-ball’ wicket of Fakhar Zaman by Jasprit Bumrah or the fateful run-out of Hardik Pandya involving Ravindra Jadeja. Should these moments been won by India, then most probably India would have defended their Champions Trophy title.
The Asia Cup win will surely boost Team India going into the World Cup next year. Prior to the mega-event, India will be playing some 20 odd ODIs where they need to settle down with their team combination with a set of 13-14 players earmarked to represent India.
As of now, the top three looks settled and in prime form. In 2018, the openers are averaging in excess of 50 while Virat is averaging a staggering 124. In the latest ODI ranking for batsmen, Virat Kohli, despite his absence in the Asia Cup, held onto his numero uno position followed by Rohit Sharma at No. 2 and Shikhar Dhawan at No. 3.
On the bowlers list, Jasprit Bumrah continues to be the number one bowler, whereas left-arm chinaman Kuldeep Yadav shot up to No. 3 position and Yuzvendra Chahal slipped slightly to No. 11.
The most concerned part is the middle-order batsmen. As of now it seems, 2 slots are still up for grabs. The No.4 position might well be taken by KL Rahul, No.5 by MS Dhoni, No.6 could be a toss-up between Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik or even Ajinkya Rahane. Likewise, the No.7 position might well be taken by Hardik Pandya, who needs to work on his consistency.
Ravindra Jadeja is also back among the scheme of things and might be used accordingly. Axar Patel can be kept as a backup. The road to a comeback in blues for the premier spinner in Tests- Ravichandran Ashwin looks a bit difficult with the impactful presence of ‘KulCha’ duo.
Ravi Shastri and team management need to experiment with the youngsters within this period to get a settled ‘playing XI’ with appropriate back-ups. And as mentioned earlier, Team India needs to win ‘key moments’ in big matches abroad in order to win the elusive World Cup title in England, where Kapil’s Devils won way back in 1983.