My Thoughts

Archive for the ‘cricket world cup’ Category

The win against Afghanistan in the final game and Virat Kohli’s hundred after 3 years should not mask what a disastrous Asia Cup campaign this was for the Indian T20 team. India entered into the tournament as clear favorites with Pakistan being their competition but their performances were inconsistent to put it politely. The biggest issue for India was the lack of clarity in selection of the playing XI. While the team composition for the first 2 games looked right, some injuries and management succumbing to pressures of including some players in the XI caused some confusion with the playing combination.

The biggest issue with the previous leadership was the same that they lacked clarity with the team selection. While most often the top 3 remained same the rest of the batting order constantly kept changing which meant that India went into major tournaments without a settled batting order. The current leadership group seem to be following the same patter ahead of an important tournament. India is the number 1 T20 team in the world by a comfortable margin but again you wouldn’t be able to guess that by their performance in the Asia Cup.

The batting order was muddled. While the top 3 were okay, the rest of the batting kept changing. The first 2 games had the 2 all-rounders in the middle which gave the captain 6 bowling options, which wasn’t the case in the second stage of the tournament. India had to bowl just the 5 bowlers as it seemed like the captain did not have confidence in the bowling of Deepak Hooda. One has to question the selection of Hooda in the XI if he wasn’t going to bowl. India did have the option of Axar Patel in the absence of Jadeja which the management for some reason failed to make use of. For example Dinesh Karthik was chosen in the squad for his finishing abilities but again he wasn’t there for the two crucial super 4 games where a good finish might have given India those extra 10-15 runs.

The World T20 is just over a month away and India as usual are struggling to figure out what their ideal combination for the tournament would be. This is exactly what happened in the 2019 WC and the 2021 T20 WC last year. The team keeps experimenting till the last minute and manage to include players who haven’t played much in the squad leading up to an imbalanced playing XI in crucial games. I agree that the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel left a big hole in the bowling line up but again there were no excuses in the batting.

If India want to seriously win a world tournament they need to identify and stick to a playing XI for at least a few games to let them settle. India have announced their T20 WC squad and except for the return of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel, there isn’t many surprises in the 15. The good thing is that India have picked the same squad for the series against Australia and South Africa which gives them ample opportunities to figure out their right playing combination for the World Cup. I understand that the playing conditions are completely different but again India for sure need to try and play the best team composition which they think will work irrespective of the surface they play on. If they continue to experiment too much leading up to the WC, they might end up with an unbalanced playing XI in the World Cup which might come back to haunt them in crucial games.

World T20 Squad:

Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh.

Standby Players: Mohammed Shami, Shreyas Iyer, Ravi Bishnoi, Deepak Chahar

The biggest problem we have had over the past few years with the Indian cricket team has been arriving at the right balance for a LOI XI. While in Test cricket there isn’t much room for experimentation in ODIs due to the enormous talent pool at their disposal India started to play around with their combination so much that they end up playing an unbalanced XI at most times.

In the ongoing Asia Cup if we look at the first 2 games, the balance was perfect. The two all-rounders at 6 & 7 followed by 4 bowlers was the ideal combination for a T20 team. India had 6 genuine bowling options in the first 2 games which helped India to juggle the bowlers better. When Jadeja was injured after the Hong Kong game, the Indian team broke that combination in their first Super 4 game against Pakistan which led to an unbalanced XI.

India had finally given into the wish list which the fans and experts have been calling for since the start of the tournament. The inclusion of Rishabh Pant is one such wish list which wasn’t needed in the scheme of things. Dinesh Karthik who played the first 2 games of the tournament hadn’t done anything wrong to be dropped for the game against Pakistan. Also the inclusion of Deepak Hooda did not make sense as well as India already had a like for like replacement for Jadeja with Axar Patel.

While Hooda was selected in the XI as a batter who could give you couple of overs, the fact that Rohit never used him with the ball is perplexing. This would only lead us to believe that Rohit Sharma or the team management do not have much confidence in the bowling abilities of Deepak Hooda. We saw that both Hardik Pandya & Yuzvendra Chahal had an off day and still they completed their full quota going for 11 an over. An over or 2 by the 6th bowler could have helped Rohit if he had the services of someone like Axar Patel at his disposal. This is what happens when you start heeding to chatter around you instead of selecting a team which gives the best balance for the XI.

If India wanted to play Rishabh Pant, he should have replaced Karthik but Hooda does not make into the XI as it affected the balance which the team had for the first 2 games. If Axar Patel was available and fit, he should have been in the XI in the place of Ravindra Jadeja. Axar is a genuine bowler, who most often than not gives you miserly overs in the middle and also picks up wickets. The lack of conviction in picking up the ideal LO XI has come back to haunt India. To be frank except for couple of forced changes, India did not have to make any more changes to the XI but they did it anyways.

The T20 WC is just over a month away and neither the fans nor the management know what India’s ideal XI is. Winning the Asia Cup is important but more than that India need to decide what batting ideal for the T20 team leading up to the marquee tournament. The biggest problem India had in 2021 WC in UAE was that the team was all over the place and there was no consistency in selection. India came into the Asia cup with some strange selections where players who played most games over the last 18 months were overlooked and now with this ridiculous meddling with the playing XI they are digging themselves into a bigger hole.

India take on Sri Lanka today for an important clash which will decide whether they can make it to the finals or not. I hope that some sense prevails and they go back to the combination they had for the first 2 games. Having a lot of talent is one thing but playing the right combination is what wins you tournaments.

Before we search for an answer to the question in the title, let’s look at the last two world tournaments India have been part of. After a heartbreaking loss at the 2017 Champions Trophy India made a host of changes in the years leading up to the World Cup in England. Most of the changes were welcomed by the fans and experts alike. The biggest failure of the Kohli-Shastri era in the limited overs format was their lack of patience.

When we look back at the 2019 WC, fans might say that India did very well. You cannot argue with them as the team reached the semi-finals in one of the toughest formats in recent times. India won most of the games in the league stage and were comfortable entrants into the knockouts. While the above was true, the wins in the league format just papered over the cracks which existed in the squad ahead of the tournament. While all of us wanted India to do well and win everyone knew the squad picked wasn’t right.

In the 2018/19 season India were touring Australia where the former managed to win their first Test series down under. Not only did they win the Test series, they also won the ODI series there. From Australia India travelled to New Zealand where they once again won the ODI series 4-1. The success of the above two mentioned wins along with an impressive 5-1 in South Africa a year ago was due to the fact that the Indian top order was in blistering form. The bowling was doing exceptionally well with Kuldeep & Chahal picking up wickets with their spin in the middle overs. Ambati Rayudu was India’s preferred number 4 and even though Virat hardly played the same XI in two consecutive games, the team did look settled.

The series in Australia & New Zealand was just a few months before the World Cup and for some reason every thing went haywire between those series and the WC in England. The squad selection was all over the place and India discarded Rayudu who was with the team for 2 years prior to that and picked Vijay Shankar from nowhere. Rishabh Pant made it to the squad as well despite not doing much in LOIs prior to the tournament. India did enter the tournament banking a lot of the top 3 which showed in their performances through the tournament. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were all in great form and they did kind of drag India to wins in the early part of the tournament and helped mask the mess which was the middle order.

India did get a glimpse of what could happen against Afghanistan but again a narrow win in that game made sure they did not learn much from it. The biggest problem for India was that for 2 years after Champions Trophy India failed to settle the middle order. The top order form meant that middle order hardly had to do much and players who were part of the teams over that time were discarded prior to the tournament. Shreyas Iyer who had some good games for India lost his place, so did Rayudu who did well for India averaging 50 over that time. The squad selection was so absurd that India ended up playing 3 genuine wicket keepers in the semi-finals against New Zealand. The injury to Shikhar Dhawan did not help India’s cause but again you don’t go to a tournament without a proper replacement for the openers. KL Rahul who started in the middle order was moved up to open and that left a huge hole in the middle order in the absence of Ambati Rayudu who was playing at that spot for 2 years prior to that tournament.

Vijay Shankar who played the first few games was discarded and India started playing random players in the middle order. When the top order failed in the semi-final the inexperienced middle order struggled to pull India out of the hole they dug themselves into way before the match began. The 2021 WC was similar in the sense, India went in with an unsettled batting order again depending on the top order who this time weren’t in form. The 2022 T20 WC in Australia unfortunately resembles the chaos India had before the 2019 WC. India’s first choice top 3 aren’t in greatest of forms and KL Rahul hasn’t played for a while.

The middle order isn’t any better with a host of names being thrown around but the only solace for India is the return to form of Y Chahal and Hardik Pandya. Majority of Indian first choice players are resting for this series against West Indies and for sure will not travel to Zimbabwe as well. This would leave a bunch of undercooked players turning up for the tournament with many of them not in form leading up to it.

I have lots of respect for Rahul Dravid as a coach but I feel he needs to make sure the mistakes of the last two tournaments aren’t repeated this time as well. Virat Kohli is a sure shot selection for the T20 WC but has no runs behind him leading up to the tournament and he isn’t playing any games right now. Rohit Sharma is shaky form and he isn’t playing much games either. KL Rahul is injured and hasn’t played much this year either. These are worrying signs. India are basically playing the next two series with second string teams with many of them vying for a spot in the squad. Squad selection is crucial and I hope players who have been performing well over the past year are given priority. Shreyas Iyer & Suryakumar Yadav should be in the squad and so should Deepak Hooda who will most probably play the games leading up to the WC.

India also need to make sure they have appropriate backups for each position and do not go in expecting there will be no injrues. Shubman Gill needs to be in the squad as well as an opener. The WC is still 3 months away but with limited games in hand, the selectors along with coach/captain combo need to make sure they pick the right players for the tournament. India have struggled to win major tournaments for a while now and this year will be crucial for Rohit/Rahul combo. They have had a good run in ODI/T20’s but again WC is a completely different challenge to the bilateral series they have been winning. India need to figure out their ideal playing XI which cannot be done with majority of the payers resting for most of the year. WC isn’t the place to experiment and if India want to make a mark in this world cup, they need to make sure they know what their best playing XI will be.

I have been following Indian cricket since early 90’s and never have I seen such an injury ravaged touring in my life time. When India landed in Australia on 12th November 2020, they already were missing Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma and knew that their captain Virat Kohli will be leaving the team after the first Test. The tour started off with the ODI series for India and by the first T20, India had already lost Jadeja to injury. This meant that the genial all-rounder had to miss the first Test at Adelaide.

Despite that one could argue that the Indian team that played the Adelaide Test was almost at full strength and was only missing the services of Ishant Sharma. Rohit Sharma isn’t a regular in Tests yet and India seldom play Jadeja and Ashwin together overseas. But again when the first Test was completed under bizarre circumstances with the tourist getting bowled out for just 36 the lost further two personnel. While Virat’s exit was already known the injury to Mohammad Shami was a body blow for an already depleted Indian attack.

While India had to pick themselves up from the disaster of Adelaide they also had to dig deep into their reserves to get a good XI on the field. The failure of Prithvi Shaw meant Shubman Gill made his debut. Mayank Agarwal who was a main stay of Indian top order was struggling with his unusually high backlift which he probably picked up during his IPL stint. The Indian team fought hard and beat the confident hosts proving all comers wrong with their resilience and courage.

while things were looking good for the tourists finally injury to Umesh Yadav further dented the Indian team which was already missing 3 of their first choice players. A confident Indian team landed in Sydney knowing that Rohit Sharma will be available to open the batting along with Gill in the 3rd Test. The Sydney Test began with Jasprit Bumrah leading the attack. While Bumrah is extremely talented and has been the spearhead for India in all formats, we need to remember that he has just played 16 Tests himself. He had Mohammad Siraj who had made his debut in Melbourne and Navdeep Saini making his debut as his bowling partners. The Test was remarkable for more than one reason. While the Indian team did pull out one of the most brilliant and resilient batting performances in recent times they also lost Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Hanuma Vihari in the process.

Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul who would have been the next choice of players to make the XI got themselves injured in the nets. While Agarwal awaits scan reports, KL Rahul is probably sipping a cup of team at home watching the game on TV. The Indian team has been hit with unprecedented bout of injuries which was least expected at the start of the series but the one heartening thing though is the fight shown by the players. The credit should be given to the team management on the tour and the unassuming yet strong leadership of Ajinkya Rahane. This series will be memorable for more than one reason but the nothing can be bigger than the courage the team has shown despite adversities.

The Indian team might struggle to put together a good solid playing XI for their toughest game of the series but again you wouldn’t bet against them giving a tough time to the Aussies. The Australia team at full strength at home has struggled to dominate a injury hit Indian team at home. This shows the bench strength of the Indian side and also the mental strength of the team to keep fighting no matter what the situation is.

The Indian team may not be able to put together a strong XI for the final Test but the Aussies will know that this touring team surely has one last fight left in them to make it hard for the hosts. With the Border-Gavaskar trophy on the line the hosts are under more pressure than the tourists who have nothing to lose going into the final Test.

Just about a year or so ago, Jasprit Bumrah was bowling like a dream in all formats of the game. The thing which has always been unique about Bumrah is his control in all formats and the way he adapts to different formats easily unlike few other bowlers around the world. He had a brilliant tour to South Africa followed by another brilliant one in England and Australia. All this culminated into that dream series against West Indies where he absolutely demolished the hosts in the 2 Tests he played. He was swinging the ball both ways and caught the host batters napping in both the Tests.

Right after the series the stress fracture happened. The fracture was minor and luckily did not involve surgery. He had a break for few months and was back for the series against Australia in January of 2020. Bumrah struggled in that series for rhythm. He not only was expensive but was also unable to take wickets. While that series may be attributed to him being rusty for missing in action for few months the following series in New Zealand followed similar pattern.

He struggled in the first couple of T20Is but did pull it back with some good spells later in the series. The following ODI series was disastrous for India and Bumrah as the latter struggled for control and wickets once again. Even in the Test series which followed Bumrah’s lack of wickets was one of the reasons India struggled against New Zealand batting. Bumrah finished with 6 wickets at an average of 31 which was below par for his standards. Even though there hasn’t been much cricket played this year due to COVID19, it has been probably the worst year for Bumrah in terms of returns.

In 6 ODIs he played this year he averaged 287 with just 1 wicket. In T20Is he did well with 8 wickets at 20 but in Tests he took 6 wickets in 4 inning for 32. While IPL isn’t the standard we normally would want to measure a player, Bumrah has been a stalwart in this tournament and his start to the season further proves that he is still struggling for rhythm. He has gone for runs in all games he has played and has struggled to bowl yorkers like he used to do before the injury.

His lengths has been all over the place and the way he fed short deliveries to AB De Villiers to be hit for sixes is something you don’t see with Bumrah ever. India tour Australia later this year and Bumrah is a crucial bowler for for the former if they want to repeat their 2018 success. The only reason India won in 2018 was because of the sustained pressure created by the pace bowlers. Bumrah was brilliant in that series bowling at high pace and accuracy. This year Australia will be stronger with the return of Steven Smith and David Warner and the Indian pace attack will have their task cut out.

Ishant Sharma has just returned from an injury and Jasprit Bumrah is still searching for his rhythm. Mohammad Shami has been the only Indian pacer who has looked in fine form in this IPL. Jasprit Bumrah is once in a generation talent and is a bowler who will be winning India lots of games in the future but again the team management should make sure he is in the right headspace. He is being captained by Rohit Sharma and I hope he and MI camp are doing everything to get his confidence back. As an Indian fan I will be watching all the games MI play just to see Bumrah’s bowling as I know that his form is crucial for India in the Test championship and also for the T20 WC next year.

Pakistan and West Indies are actually two peas in one pod. Both the teams can be highly entertaining and unbeatable on their day but can be highly frustrating otherwise to watch for their respective fans. West Indies have had mixed results coming into the World Cup, they lost the tri-series finals to Bangladesh recently but again they were missing lots of their first choice players. Pakistan on the other hand have had a horror run over the last 6 months losing 10 games in a row coming into the tournament and also losing their only warm-up game to Afghanistan last week.

Pakistan would like to shrug off their bad form and get back to winning ways when they take of West Indies in their opening game.

The biggest positive for Pakistan has been their batting. Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam have been in great form and as a batting unit they crossed 300+ in 3 of their 4 games against England earlier this month. Their bowling though is a different story. Pakistan have announced their 12 for the game against West Indies already and when we look at their line-up, the bowling does not inspire any confidence. Mohammad Amir who was initially dropped from the provisional squad and re inducted into the World Cup squad has been struggling for wickets over the last 18 months. He averages 92.6 in 15 games with just 5 wickets to his name. Hasan Ali who was Pakistan’s star in their Champions Trophy 2017 campaign has taken 24 wickets at an average of 42.49. Wahab Riaz who was Pakistan’s stand out performer in their only warm up against Afghanistan hasn’t played any ODI since the first Champions Trophy game for Pakistan in 2017.

Shadab Khan their lone specialist spinner is their best bet against West Indies as he has a decent record over that time and averages 29.28 with 28 wickets. Pakistan’s bowling has been struggling over the last 18 months and their best bowler over that time Shaheen Shah Afridi is sitting out this game. West Indies on the other had are flying high with confidence after their amazing win against New Zealand in the practice game early this week. Their batting seems extremely dangerous and with Chris Gayle back at the top, they look a formidable unit. The addition of Andre Russell in the middle order also gives them the edge as he can really hit the long ball and also bowl really quick when needed.

West Indies will want to build on their impressive win against New Zealand when they take on Pakistan at Trent Bridge.

Shai Hope has been in brilliant form with the bat and with Darren Bravo at number 4, they have a very good top 4. The bowling attack can blow hot or cold similar to their batting but with Oshane Thomas providing the X-Factor, they can really test the Pakistan batting if they get it right. The major weakness for West Indies will be their spin option. Even though Ashley Nurse is a decent spinner, he isn’t someone who the opposition will be worried too much about.

Head to Head: 

In terms of head to head in the World Cups, West Indies are way ahead of Pakistan. They are 7-3 in all time World Cup encounters. They also lead Pakistan 70-60 in the overall record. As we know we cannot make too much out of this stats as West Indies dominated world cricket in 70’s and 80’s and most of the stats reflects that domination.

Key Players:

Shadab Khan (Pakistan) – He has been Pakistan’s best bowler over the last 18 months. Even though he hasn’t done much with the bat, his bowling where he has picked up 28 wickets will be crucial for Pakistan in this world cup. Despite having the left-arm spin of Imad Wasim, Shadab is possibly their only specialist spinner in the 12. Considering West Indies’s struggles against good spin bowling, he will form the most important part of their strategy.

Babar Azam (Pakistan) – Even though Pakistan has 2 players at the top averaging 50, Babar Azam is their best bat in this format. With 9 hundreds in 64 games, he is their main stay in batting. The other Pakistan batters would need to bat around him and the onus will be on Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed to guide this young team through this tournament.

Shai Hope (West Indies) – Hope is probably the best West Indies batter in the ODI format in a long time. He averages over 50 in this format and has done incredibly well over the last 18 months. He is the calm in otherwise explosive batting line up. He along with Darren Bravo will be crucial for West Indies campaign in this tournament.

Jason Holder (West Indies) – The West Indies captain is the talisman around which the team has recently had a resurgence. He bats well and bowls well but his leadership skills is what which will be important managing a mercurial bunch of cricketers. He has been brilliant doing that over the last couple of years and he would like to continue the same in this tournament.

What they said?

“One thing I like coming into this tournament is that every player is in a good frame of mind,” Holder said. “Everybody is playing with a smile on their face, and that’s how we play our best cricket. We’re fearless, we enjoy what we’re doing and we enjoy one another’s company. I can safely say within the group we’ve got that. We’ve got the energy going into this tournament that we would want to have

“It’s good to be unpredictable. All teams are scared of Pakistan because on our day we are dangerous. It’s good that we’re unpredictable before the World Cup” Safaraz Ahmed said in a presser ahead of their opening encounter against West Indies

Probable XI (Pakistan) – Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (WK & C), Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali

Probable XI (West Indies) – Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (Wkt), Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder (C), Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell,  Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Ashley Nurse.

I wouldn’t want to be a betting man tonight for this game against this two sides. This game probably is one of the most difficult one to predict. Probably couple years ago the obvious choice would have been Pakistan but things have changed a lot. Both teams will start on an even keel and the team who bowls well and fields well will emerge victories. Knowing how unpredictable these two teams are, it is hard to say who that will be.

Faf and Morgan will be aware that a good start to the campaign is crucial in a tournament like the World Cup.

Cricket World Cup 2019 begins today with a cracker of a game between hosts England and South Africa at The Oval later today. Both the teams haven’t won a World Cup yet and England  coming into the tournament as the best team in the world have their best chance of creating history this time around. For South Africa though this is a chance to shed their “Chokers” tag and go that one step further which they haven’t been able to do since their return to world cricket in 1991.

England though have a very strong squad this time and with an explosive batting line up, they are the team to beat in this World Cup. The opening combination of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow has been in explosive form followed by the calmness of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan. Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes complete arguably the best top 6 in world cricket right now. England bowling attack also received a boost with the addition of Jofra Archer to the squad. Chris Woakes who showed great form in the series against Pakistan will be a key member of the bowling attack as well.

Adil Rashid as the lone specialist spinner has done incredibly well for England over the last few years and he in combination with Moeen Ali has been crucial for England’s limited overs success. When we look at the England squad it is hard to find a weakness but again they haven’t had it all rosy in recent times. The series against West Indies showed that if the wicket has something in it for the pacers, they can struggle a bit.

South Africa though also come into this tournament with a good frame of mind. They defeated Pakistan at home recently and also had a series win in Australia towards to end of 2018. Hashim Amla who was completely out of form over the last couple of years looked to be getting back into some sort of touch in the warm up games. Captain Faf Du Plessis who will be crucial for South Africa in the middle order will be hoping that the experienced Quinton De Kock, David Miller and Jean-Paul Duminy will step up to the counted. South African bowling attack received a massive set back when Dale Steyn was ruled out from the opening encounter. Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi will be crucial with the new ball for the Proteas.  Imran Tahir in all probability will be their lone spinner and his form in the recently concluded IPL was brilliant for CSK.

Head to Head:

Both teams have been pretty much even through the history in ODIs. South Africa have a slight edge in the overall head to head with 29-26 in 59 games but in terms of the World Cup they are a even 3-3.

Key Players:

Kagiso Rabada (South Africa) – South Africa have had a rotten luck with their bowlers coming into the world cup. Anrich Nortje was ruled out just a few weeks before the main event and Dale Steyn was ruled out from the opening encounter against England just few days before. Rabada who is arguably the best fast bowler in the world will be crucial with the new ball. Dismissing the English openers soon will be crucial and he along with Lungi Ngidi will be key components of South African strategy against the hosts.

Faf du Plessis (South Africa) – The South African captain is their best batter and in a batting line-up which has struggled for consistency over the last year or so he is a vital cog in their limited overs team. He averaged 60.36 in ODIs since the last World Cup and will once again be a crucial member of the batting side along with De Kock and Amla.

Jofra Archer (England) – We have seen the hype and now it is time for some action from the talented pacer from the Caribbean. England have gone out of their limbs to draft him into their ODI side for the world cup and all eyes will be on him to perform. He is extremely pacy and accurate and even though he has played only 2 ODIs before this one for England, he will be a crucial member of the English pace attack.

Joe Root (England) – In a star studded batting line up like the one England have, he is the calm they need to neutralise all the madness. Root is England’s best overall player and his record in ODIs hasn’t been that shabby either. He has scored 3498 runs since the last World Cup at an average of 58.3. He will be the anchor the England team needs to bat around all the power hitters they have.

What they said?

“In my head, there is still a lot more to do because we will get beaten by teams. We will get knocked down and have to come back. And if we’re showing blind belief and not reacting to what is in front of us then that is no good.” – Eoin Morgan 

“We have a tremendous attack which is one of the best in the world,” du Plessis said. “We can bowl teams out for anything. Look at Pakistan [at the 2017 Champions Trophy]. On paper they had maybe the worst batting line-up but their bowlers kept winning them games. We’ll be employing a similar strategy and have confidence that we’ll be setting scores we can defend and chasing totals within our reach.”

Even though England have been brilliant over the last 4 years in the limited overs format, the South African bowling attack means that they cannot be written off completely. This will be an evenly contested game with England having a slight edge.

South Africa probable XI: Hashim Amla, Aiden Markham, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (WK) Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi

England Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (C), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Jofra Archer.

In this three part series we will be looking the teams India will be facing in this World Cup in the order they will play them. We will look at how India have fared against these opponents over the last 4 years since the 2015 World Cup.

Kuldeep Yadav & Yuzvendra Chahal had wood over protean batters during India’s tour to South Africa in 2018

June 5,2019 – India vs South Africa, The Rose Bowl, Southampton

India kick off the World Cup campaign with a tough game against South Africa at the The Rose Bowl. South Africa have been a difficult team for India to beat in the World Cup in the past. In fact the 2015 victory was India’s first against Proteas in a World Cup match. Even though the historical head to head record between the two sides is firmly in South Africa’s favour the last 4 years have been a little different. Both teams have met 12 times since the 2015 WC and India have a 8-4 advantage. This includes India’s crushing series win in South Africa last year. Both teams have good bowling attack but India definitely have the edge in batting. In the absence of AB De Villiers and inexperienced South African batting rely heavily on Faf Du Plessis and Hashim Amla to provide them with the stability they need. With the game being played at the Rose Bowl, the spinners with come into play. India with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will be favourites in this contest.

Verdict: Even though this will be a tough game, India probably hold the edge over an injury stricken SA side. They are still awaiting confirmation on the availability of Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn.

June 9, 2019 – India vs Australia, Kennington Oval, London

Like South Africa, Australia have been one of the most difficult opponents to face in the World Cup for India in the past. Even though India triumphed against them in the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals, en route to the title, they were beaten by Australia in 2015 World Cup in the Semi-Finals. Both teams have met 18 times over the last 4 years with the honours even at 9-9. This is one match up which is difficult to call. The Australia team though will be buoyed by the return of Steven Smith and David Warner to the ODI side and with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins making a comeback as well they look a strong side this time as well. Their recent form has been brilliant as well as they won 8 games in a row against India & Pakistan in the sub continent over the last couple of months. The battle obviously will be between the two batting sides and how the Australian batters play the Indian spinners. In the last 4 years this has been a high scoring ground with team batting second winning 6 of the last 11 games.

Verdict: This is a tough one to call and I would probably give Australia a slight edge on this one due to their recent form and historical dominance over India in the World Cups.

June 13, 2019 – India vs New Zealand, Trent Bridge, Nottingham

India will be taking on last year’s finalists in their third game of the tournament. India will start as favourites in this contest as historically India have a good record against the Blackcaps. The recent record between the two also alludes to the same conclusion as India have won 9 out of their last 13 games against New Zealand. New Zealand are a good side and have a good bowling attack and an aggressive batting attack. They did struggle a bit against the Indian spinners in the recently concluded series between the two sides. Indian spinners will once again be crucial in this contest. The blackcaps will have Tim Southee and Trent Boult with the new ball and Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi to manage the spin department. The batting will be led by captain Kane Williamson with the experience of Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill. The Indian batters did struggle against Boult’s swing in New Zealand but again we may not see such conditions in the world cup in a dry summer in the UK. The Indian bowling attack were all over New Zealand in the recent series and it will be interesting to see if they continue to do so in the World Cup.

Verdict: India definitely hold the edge over New Zealand in this contest. This will be close game but gain India is expected to win this game against the blackcaps.

That concludes part 1 of this series and the review will continue with the next three games in Part 2.

 

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The shot in the picture is what Vijay Shankar needs to play more when he takes guard for India in the World Cup

Pic Courtesy Deccan Chronicle

Hoick towards the mid-wicket seems to be the “Get Out of Jail” shot for Vijay Shankar in ODIs. It does not matter if he is playing pace or spin, when he has few dots, he tries to play that stroke. Even though he has had some success with that shot the problem is when you overdo something you are going to get caught out.

Vijay Shankar hasn’t played too many games for India and in this short span we have seen him caught at the boundary going for a big hit right after hitting one to the stands the previous ball. This from what I can remember happened twice against Australia in the recent series and at least once in the T20I series against New Zealand earlier this year. Vijay is not a slogger, he is far from it. You can see that he has a good technique when he plays the quick bowlers and hits straight. His innings of 45 against New Zealand was one of the best fighting innings from an Indian young player overseas in tough conditions. He does look million dollars when playing straight as he showed in the innings of 46 against Australia in the recently concluded series, a knock which seemed to have totally impressed the captain Virat Kohli.

Vijay also has a good first class record and averages 47 in that format. He is a good all-round cricketer who bowls a decent ball and is an excellent fielder. He is a naturally aggressive player whose strike rates are in the high 90’s in the limited overs formats. Even though playing positively is crucial these days, sometimes playing smart is crucial as well. Repeating a shot which just got you a six in a premeditated way is mostly a recipe for disaster and the risk of you skying the ball is high. Vijay has been selected in the Indian ODI team for the World Cup 2019 to bat at number 4 in the order. A position which is crucial for any team in the ODIs.

Any one playing in that position needs to be able to consolidate or bat aggressive according to the demands of the team. Vijay Shankar can make the position his own if he bats with little restraint. Every player has that one release shot, they normally keep that shot when they are under pressure but again you need to know when to use it and be smart about it.

In 18 innings so far Vijay has played for India his highest score is 45, he has gotten off to starts in few games but has lost his wicket to a restless nervous shot to lose his wicket at crucial times in the innings. The 5th ODI against Australia proves the case in point when all he needed to do was bat positively and build a partnership, he went for the glory shot against Nathan Lyon after hitting his previous ball for a six. These are small moments in the game which might be a turning point for a player as well as the team in a major tournament like the World Cup.

Cricket is majority of the times the skill but also there is a mental aspect to it. Lots of players have amazing skills but lose out because they lack the temperament to play in the pressure situation. Vijay Shankar will be thoroughly tested in the World Cup and how he responds to the various situations he finds himself in such a tournament will determine if he continues to play at number 4 for India in the ODIs. He can either lock down that spot or lose it completely by the end of the marquee tournament and lets just hope it is the former.

Rishabh-Pant

Ever since the Indian World Cup squad was announced, the one thing which has been in constant discussion is the omission of Rishabh Pant from the 15. Yes there have been talks about Ambati Rayudu missing out as well but Pant has been the favourite for everyone and the noise has only got louder. I agree that Pant is an amazing talent. A supremely talented batter who has impressed one and all within just a year of playing Test cricket but his omission is valid for what the team management is scouting for.

Pant is a brilliant young player and for sure is the future of Indian batting in all formats.  The one thing though I am not that convinced about is everyone trying to fit him into a finisher role. A finisher role in LO format requires two completely different skill set to be effective. One while batting first providing the required impetus to get the team to a good total and two is while chasing playing at a right pace to finish games for your side. While I agree that Pant can easily fit into the former when the team is batting first , he I am afraid is not there yet as a finisher while chasing.

While Pant is the replacement for Dhoni in the limited overs format, we should not take it literally and expect him to do what Dhoni does so effectively. Dhoni was different, when he came in, it felt as though he was always meant to be a finisher. Within a year he was winning games for the country chasing some big totals with mature head on his shoulders. Pant isn’t there yet and needs time before he can get there.

That’s the reason I feel he missed out on the selection as well for the World Cup. In the current scenario, the best value you can get of him in the LO format is at the top of the order. He can bat at number 4 or even open the batting in the future. Effectively he can be the floater in the batting line up can be used based on the situation of the game. That will give him the freedom to go after the bowling without the pressures of trying to preserve his wicket. He is just 21 and trying to pigeonhole him into a role where he isn’t that comfortable yet is completely destroying his potential and his ability to effectively contribute to the team’s success. While the experts are right about his potential their premise for the argument is wrong. We could see the effect of the same in the recently concluded Australian series where he was trying things he wasn’t comfortable doing. We need to give him space and provide him with the freedom to express himself as we have done in the Test format.

I am not saying Pant can never be a finisher in ODIs, he will get there in the future, but he isn’t there yet.


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