Two issues India need to sort out in ODIs
In the last four years, the Indian cricket team hasn’t produced the desired results in One-day International cricket away from home. Yes, there were two successful campaigns for India in those four years - the Champions Trophy win in England in 2013 and finishing third in the World Cup 2015. Although it was not a successful World Cup for India, their performance in the tournament was outstanding as they bounced back from a forgetful tri-series in Australia.
However, these two good campaigns has put out of sight many flaws in this one-day side. To start off with, the surfaces in Champions Trophy were not typical English and it was a turning square. When the surface is offering a lot of spin, India is a completely different side as Dhoni can unleash his spin-web around the batsmen with Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Lack of contribution from No.7
However, when the wickets don’t offer spin, India has struggled to put pressure on the opponents as their fifth bowler hasn’t been able to make an impact. Ravindra Jadeja hasn’t proved to be effective on conditions that don’t offer grip and spin and was taken on by the batsmen in the World Cup semi-final against Australia. Also, his contribution has been mediocre with the bat at number 7 which puts pressure on the top order to get runs consistently. Dhoni has also often accepted in post-match interviews that Jadeja can’t slog overseas, but still Dhoni believed in him and kept him in the side and however, the latter hasn’t been able to repay the captain’s trust.
An ideal example would be the match against Zimbabwe in the World Cup where Dhoni pointed out in presentation ceremony that there are no proper batsmen down the order and hence he told Suresh Raina to be in third gear of the game.
Also, Jadeja doesn’t have many variations to trouble batsmen. He is someone who bowls flatter and quick and doesn’t toss the ball. This makes Jadeja a predictable bowler and once the batsman is used to it, he will be taken to cleanness on most surfaces except the one which has grip and spin. Therefore, it’s time for India to look beyond Ravindra Jadeja.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest in Axar Patel from now in place of Jadeja. Axar Patel made his mark in the last season of IPL and was picked for Bangladesh tour. He did a decent job with the ball against Bangladesh and also returned to India’s squad for the third match against West Indies at Dharamshala where he was picked as the second-spinner along with Jadeja who was the first-choice spinner.
On a surface that was conducive to seam bowling, Axar Patel impressed everyone with figures of 10-1-26-2, while Jadeja was taken faltered with 9-1-80-2. The reason why Jadeja was hammered all over the park was because he was bowling flatter and quicker which was easy for West Indies batsmen to play their shots, while Axar Patel was bowling a lot slower in the air and was inviting the batsmen into the drive which earned him the reward.
Also, Axar Patel was pretty impressive during the Sri Lanka series, picking up 11 wickets at an economy rate of less than 6.00 runs per over. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest in Axar Patel. With important home series against South Africa on the cards, it is important that Axar Patel gets the nod ahead of Ravindra Jadeja.
Ajinkya Rahane’s inability at four
Apart from the all-rounder problem, India also has some issues with Ajinkya Rahane in 50-overs cricket. Rahane has proved to be the best batsman in Tests over the last four overseas tours but he hasn’t been able to transform that performance into one-day cricket. What could be the reason behind this? Is he not suited to one-day cricket? Or, is the team management not using him properly?
Ajinkya Rahane has not been able to get going as middle order batsmen for India in the limited overs cricket. He averages around 30 at No.4, and his inability to construct innings at four has been a major problem for India which quickly exposes India’s lower order. He has also not been able to deliver at number four for India under crisis and more often he has stifled under pressure. His innings at Cardiff, Melbourne against Bangladesh are few instances where he has shown his inability to construct the innings.
But it’s unfair to blame Rahane for that because each and every player has their own role. But he has proved to be good opening batsmen for India as he scored his maiden one-day hundred in England last year and played a key role in India’s series win against England. He also showed that he is technically equipped to play in top two, and also the fact that his promotion to the top has given Shikhar Dhawan the flexibility he needs at the top of the order. Since Rahane kept the score-board busy, Shikhar was able to play with freedom and he became a better batsman in away conditions after Rahane was promoted to open the batting.
Also, Rohit Sharma, upfront, hasn’t been able to rotate the strike well which puts pressure on his partner to take risks earlier in the match. He tries to hit the ball in the air to overcome the pressure which doesn’t work often. Therefore, Ajinkya Rahane is ideal opener for India.
If India can sort out these two issues, then they will get much better results in the one-day format and with the fast bowlers in good nick, India will be able to produce desired results in away series as well.
(The opinion expressed in this article reflect the view of the writer and not necessarily that of Sportskeeda)