Formidable force but weaknesses too: Team India has its work cut out for the World Cup
The greatest cricket tournament is about to begin and while analysts predict India will be a force to watch, the team also has considerable weak spots. Will this squad be able to repeat the feat of 1983?
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The first match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, featuring host England ranged against South Africa, will be played on May 30.
Team India has played its quota of two warm-up matches so far — the first of which, against New Zealand at The Oval, was an utter disappointment for its fans.
Playing in overcast conditions on a pitch with green cover, the batting line-up failed to adapt and deliver. Had Ravindra Jadeja not scored a belligerent half-century, India could have collapsed for a lot less than 179, making victory for the purposeful Kiwis a lot easier.
Ravindra Jadeja played a heroic innings to save India. (Photo: PTI)
The second warm-up match, against Bangladesh in Cardiff, was a different story. Hundreds by KL Rahul and MS Dhoni helped India set an imposing target of 360.
Bangladesh fought hard, but eventually fell short by 95 runs.
In a warm-up match against Bangladesh, centuries by KL Rahul and MS Dhoni helped India score. (Photo: Reuters)
But the warm-up matches are over.
The real action is about to begin.
Expectations from India are high, with the team being spoken of as one of the favourites to win the 12th edition of the quadrennial event. Legendary Australian cricketer Shane Warne insists that Australia have a serious chance of winning the tournament, but he, like many others, agrees that India will pose a tough challenge, “(Australia)... have to get past a very strong India and England side. If you ask me who are the favourites, it is India and England...,” he reportedly told IANS.
Cricket lovers have fond memories of June 25, 1983, when an unfancied Indian squad, led by Kapil Dev, had defeated the mighty West Indians captained by Clive Lloyd at Lord’s to win the first World Cup for India.
Today, the Indian team, led by Virat Kohli, finds itself in the same part of the world where history was written 36 years ago.
Unforgettable: Kapil Dev lifting the World Cup title in 1983. (Photo: India Tod
Can Team India make history again?
It certainly can — which explains the optimism of Indian cricket fans. Any team would have considered itself fortunate to have Virat Kohli, the best batsman in modern-day cricket, in its line-up. Kohli's presence is significant for two reasons. He can play big knocks, and besides, his sheer presence applies psychological pressure on the opposition. India will hope that the skipper-batsman will be at his best and contribute precious runs like he mostly does.
That said, too much dependence on Kohli can boomerang — even if he is as prolific as we expect him to be, there will be times he will get out for low scores. He might get dismissed because of bad luck, if his partner runs him out, for instance, or he can lose his wicket to a good delivery. Repetitive as it may sound, each Indian batsman must play his part to set stiff targets or while chasing down big scores.
Team India has another asset
The seriously talented opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
Sharma's presence is particularly significant because he, on a good day, can annihilate the opposition with ease.
Both these batsmen must come to the aid of the party repeatedly, for their good performances can win matches for India — and Kohli must not be expected to fight the top order battle with little support.
Every team has weaknesses
That of Team India is a relatively inexperienced middle order. The batsmen who will fill the slots are Vijay Shankar, K L Rahul, Kedhar Jadhav and even Dinesh Karthik. The crucial number four spot has been a worry for the management, although Rahul will definitely play in that position when the tournament begins — and hopefully, maintain his form.
Quick-scoring batsmen like Hardik Pandya, in particular, and Ravindra Jadeja can play important cameos and the occasional knock of substance.
A lot will also depend on MS Dhoni, whose presence in the middle order is of invaluable significance.
MS Dhoni will be key in the middle order. (Photo: PTI)
The battle-scarred veteran was in fine form in the IPL, and his significance as a finisher can be hardly underestimated. Also vital because of his keeping, Dhoni’s third well-known role of a senior player who shares his invaluable insight with Kohli will come into play as well.
Team India’s bowling line-up offers great options for skipper Kohli — Jasprit Bumrah is an outstanding oddity, who, with his peculiar action and release that makes him hard to pick, promises to play an important role. Attacking leg spin googly bowler Yuzvendra Chahal and the deceptive left-arm chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, India’s spin twins, are assets for the team.
Time to soar! Jasprit Bumrah is lethal playing for Team India. (Photo: PTI)
Speedster Mohammed Shami’s bowling will play a critical role, while Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s usefulness can be tested from time to time. Pandya, Jadeja, Jadhav and Shankar offer part-time options for the skipper, who definitely has a good number of bowlers at his disposal.
Former Indian skipper Rahul Dravid is of the view that India have a great chance of lifting the coveted trophy — because of the bowlers. Speaking at an event, he reportedly said, “People like (Jasprit) Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal... (We have) got bowlers who can take wickets. Teams that are taking wickets through those middle overs in those high scoring games have a better chance of restricting the opposition.”
The Indian team has performed remarkably in recent times; it will certainly be a force to reckon with. Dravid himself reportedly added, “I think we have had a couple of really good years leading to the World Cup. For the right reasons, we are No. 2 in the world — that actually means that we have consistently produced some successful results in the last two and a half years. We can be hopeful.”
The present-day Team India does not have the kind of batting depth it once did when Dravid played for the country, with talents like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and The Wall constituting a line-up dreams are made of.
What the present side does have is a good balance, by and large, which can be crucial when the opposition also puts its best foot forward. As they set out to conquer the world, the team management has to do what every management must: pick the playing eleven smartly.