Why is the Indian cricket team unable to solve its middle order issues?
The much awaited World Cup year has come. The biggest ICC tournament, which will be played from 30th May to 14th July, is the biggest attraction of the year for cricket aficionados.
The final stages of the tournament preparation have begun. India and England will be the favorites going in the tournament. However, the other teams cannot be underestimated.
India is looking like a strong team that has almost all its bases covered. They have one of the best batsmen in Virat Kohli and two fabulous bowlers in Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
However, there is one thing that still needs to be sorted out. The middle order of the Indian team has been subjected to repeated experiments in order to find a perfect combination, but all these efforts have come to naught so far.
Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Kedar Jadhav and many other players have been tried, but this has not helped the Indian team. A very specific problem ails Team India.
None of these experiments have worked out primarily because India has never truly tested any of these players. India only uses them as a backup for senior players, against weaker teams like Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Any player can make runs against weak bowling attacks of such teams and get into the setup.
This makes it look that the middle order problem has been solved. However, when the same players are playing against strong oppositions like England, South Africa, and Australia, the real ability of all these players is seen. In most cases, these players fail to deliver. This again revives the old problem.
This process has repeated itself again and again. For instance, take Ambati Rayudu. He came into the team on the basis of performance in Asia Cup. He had easily scored 175 runs in 6 matches, including 2 half centuries. However, his better performances had come against weak opponents such as Hong Kong and Bangladesh.
His performances have drastically declined against Australia. In the first 2 matches, he scored just 24 runs. So bad were his performances, that he had to be dropped from the squad for the third ODI.
The same goes for Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthik as well. Manish had scored a century (104 not out) against Australia in Australia. Since that innings, he was given several opportunities. He failed to perform not only overseas, but also at home. Dinesh Karthik has been able to manage just 308 runs in 15 innings against the SENA countries.
Virat Kohli has himself made it clear that the number 4 slot is still not set in stone. This proves that the decision to field new players against weaker opponents has failed.
What is the solution to the problem?
India now has only 10 ODIs (after the 3rd ODI against Australia) before the World Cup. Of these, only 5 have to be played in challenging conditions in New Zealand.
Although it is now too late for experiments, India can certainly try 2 or 3 players who have proven themselves in Test cricket. And when it comes to Test cricket, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw are the only probable names that come to mind for the middle order.
One might argue that Pujara is not well suited for ODI cricket due to his slow strike rate. However, Pujara is a man who can be trusted to perform in every match. He has worked hard upon improving his strike rate in tests, which is particularly evident when he is playing with the tail-enders.
However, if India does not want to further conduct such experiment, they can try to strengthen their existing combinations. They can rest their best players like Kohli and Rohit Sharma and make Rayudu and Dhoni bat up the order so that they might get a few more chances to find their feet.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the views of Sportskeeda.