Chief coach Ravi Shastri made a significant announcement in the press conference on the eve of the team’s departure to Australia.
Chief coach Ravi Shastri made a significant announcement in the press conference on the eve of the team’s departure to Australia. “No more experimentation with the ODI side,” he said. “We’ll play with as close to the 15 that will represent India in the World Cup.”
India play 3 ODIs Down Under after the four-Test series, then travel to New Zealand where 5 ODIs are scheduled, and after that host Australia at home for 5 ODIs — in all 13 matches — to complete the run-up to the World Cup which begins in June in England.
While India are currently ranked no.2 by the ICC, recent matches have thrown up queries about the form of some key players as well as the composition of the team.
It is pertinent to remember that India lost the ODI series to England earlier this year and were put in some dither by a weak West Indies team at home, though the series was ultimately won easily.
Where are the problem areas? The number 4 and 5 batting slots are still a big bother. Dhoni is the floater who can bat in these positions or later, but his lukewarm form makes it imperative for the others to pull their weight.
While several have been tried — Rahane, Pandey, Karthik, K.L. Rahul, Rishabh Pant to name a few — none has been able to seize and make this place his own with any degree of conviction
This will be even more crucial in England where pitches and conditions usually help bowlers and the threat of early wickets falling is ever present. The middle order has to be sturdy to not just prevent a total collapse but also ensure a competitive score.
The all-rounder’s slots (7 and 8) are also important and as yet not filled. Much depends on how quickly Hardik Pandya recovers from injury. In England, his usefulness as back up seamer and hard-hitting batsman can be paramount.
Jadeja can add heft to the batting, but this would come at the expense of wicket-taking spinners Kuldeep and/or Chahal. But if the latter two play, then India have a longish tail.
This adds to the dilemma. Also, while Rohit and Dhawan have had very good success as openers, the selectors and team management would surely like to blood young sensation Prithvi Shaw and see if he fits in.
The formation of the team, therefore, is still incomplete so I am not sure whether Shastri and Kohli will be able to resist the urge to try out a few other players in the remaining 13 matches before the World Cup squad is sealed.
However, this won’t be the top priority of the team at this time. It shouldn’t be, for the Test series against Australia is paramount in the context of India’s stature in this format and how the current year has panned out so far.
For all the hoopla when the year began and Shastri and Kohli held out promise of delivering overseas victories, the results have been to the contrary. In South Africa, India lost 1-2 and in England 1-4.
True, there were some sterling performances, particularly by the bowlers and Kohli with the bat, but this did not alter India’s traditional failings when playing overseas.
While India are still the no.1 ranked Test side, there is imminent threat from England and South Africa (behind by 11 and 12 rating points respectively) to usurp this position.
The impending series offers a chance for redemption. But while Australia are currently in turmoil, they will be no pushovers in their own conditions. The batting looks vulnerable, but the bowling attack is still first rate and will test the Indian top order in which several have been struggling.
For the record, India have never won a series in Australia. This is an opportunity for Kohli and Co to make history and disprove the criticism that Indian cricket is not floating just on bombast, but has serious mettle.