WC Prediction: Tough path to final for the Mighty Indians

WC Prediction: Tough path to final for the Mighty Indians

India sure shot semi-finalist. But can Team Blue go all the way in the tournament?

If you are supporting Indian cricket team all noise about India, England being the joint favorite must excite the fans. India record in ICC Event in England where they finished as the winner and runner up of ICC Champions Trophy in 2013,2017 gives hope that Indian cricket team can replicate what Kapil’s devil did in 1983 where they won despite being 500:1 odds on favorite.

Also, if you compare the bowling lineup of Indian Team in the 2011 World Cup to 2019 World Cup, you have all reasons to believe the prospect of another World Cup coming home. Moreover, numbers back the Indian team in ODIs since 2015 World Cup, India has a win percentage of 65.12% in 86 match they played the percentage shoots to 69% with wins over South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka in their backyard. So can India have a premature Diwali celebration this July? Let’s see

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Here is a look at India’s World Cup squad –

Squad: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik

India batting: The powerhouse

Top three of Indian batsman make up for its power. No one has scored more runs at top three than Indian batsman. It is not just runs but way they accumulate those runs dominating any bowling lineup be at home or away on the road to win series for India be it Asia Cup in 2018, Champions Trophy in 2013 or first ever series win in South Africa last year.

You can talk about Jonny Bairstow,Jason Roy and Joe Root forming formidable pair for England but Indian batsman have created aura about themselves with Virat Kohli being No.1 ranked ICC batsman and Rohit Sharma fast catching him at No.2 in the ranking and Shikhar Dhawan too isn’t by far finding himself at No.5 in the ICC ranking.

Since 2015 World Cup, Rohit Sharma has scored 3790 runs at an average of 61 with highest of 208* which includes 15 centuries including a humongous score of 171* against Australia,174 against West Indies,150 against South Africa and crowd are at its feet whenever Rohit gets to a hundred and anticipating 200 after his record 3 triple centuries.

Virat Kohli edges ahead of Rohit Sharma as he scored 4306 runs in lesser number of matches (69 to be precise) since 2015 WC including highest of 160* against South Africa. While he may not have double centuries to show yet but his contributions in the chases makes him the cut above the rest of the two competitors if you would like to call it.

Shikhar Dhawan may not have big hundreds to show like his counterparts with the highest of 143 runs against Australia in recently concluded bilateral series. But there is something about way he gets those runs as India have lost only two matches he scored hundred both against Australia the one was back home in recently concluded bilateral series where bowlers couldn’t defend 358 and another back in 2016, where India lost from position of strength after being in comfortable place to chase 320 odd . And another crucial points which goes in Shikhar favour is he is man of the big moments, when it comes to ICC tournaments he has been leading run scorer with 412 runs in the World Cup 2015 and leading run scorer of ICC Champions Trophy in 2013, 2017 edition with 363,338 runs winning golden bat award both the time.

The good thing is that all three have scored at a strike rate of more than 95 in varying condition and winning the match. Consistency personified! In fact, since 2017 Champions Trophy, top three have scored 63% of the team’s run, the most by any team in the time.

At no.5 the cool head of MS Dhoni takes charge, and his recent performance against Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka on away tour shows he forms an integral part of batting to follow after the troika. The number is not too bad either as he has scored 2001 runs in 61 innings since World Cup 2015. His hitting power may not be the same, but his ability to soak pressure and experience of 300 plus ODI innings will come in handy. The strike rate has dipped to 81 well below MS Dhoni high bar he set but competent enough to walk into any team straightaway. Even in IPL, he scored at a strike rate of 134

Hardik Pandya at no.7 will be crucial coming down the order, and his ability to finish games as he did for Mumbai Indians in IPL and add extra 20-25 runs makes him a vital cog.

India bowling lineup: Best bowling lineup of the tournament?

Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammad Shami being the top four pick based on the form are likely to start. A look at the bowler on the bench Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja with R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav both part of winning the core of CT 2013 missing out, see how competitive bowling spots have become and why India’s bowling is among the best if not the best.

This year in the ODI series against New Zealand, Kuldeep-Chahal fondly called as Kul-Cha picked its 100th wicket operating together since 2017  bilateral series vs. India.

While Bumrah now the no.1 ranked ICC ODI bowler has 85 wickets in 49 matches but it his abilities in the overs from 41-50 overs that stands out. With the unique action, Jasprit has picked 44 wickets at an economy of 5.76 with average of 13.76 which happens to be best for any bowler in the World while Kul-Cha too has been massive contribution with miserly economy rate at death overs as they give runs at 5.15 (Chahal)and 6.47 (Kuldeep) runs per over.

With Bumrah, Chahal, and Kuldeep making giant strides in the Indian team and since all three of them have been playing together post-CT 2017, the economy rate in death has come down to 6.37 which again is best for among all ten teams participating. Even Mohammad Shami since the comeback in 2017 after a lengthy layoff has the economy rate of 6.57 .and given India have played so much of cricket in varying conditions such as England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and even on flat pitches of India, UAE, Sri Lanka.

India’s bowling is its biggest strength quite an irony considering batting stalwarts produced by Indian cricket team.

Weakness: Far too many soft spots

There are quite a few glaring weaknesses in the Indian team firstly, the much debated no.4 slot. Vijay Shankar at no.4 is an experiment which could go either way given his inexperience and magnitude of the tournament.KL Rahul has failed in middle order despite the opportunities he has got. His scores at no.4 have been 4,0,17, and 6 before  scoring 108 runs in the warmup match of 99 balls against Bangladesh. However, can he score at second or third gear if the situation demands against stronger opposition? That is a big question mark.

While Kohli will not admit it, but in the captain press conference before the ultimate showdown, Virat said he would like to have Faf Du Plessis in his team. Now, digging deep Eoin Morgan, Faf Du Plessis has been a best no.4 batsman in recent times so Kohli the captain is worried about the spot. The lack of experienced no.4 batsman would mean top 3 would have to be conservative and perhaps that means India score just par score 

Dip in the fielding standards

The fielding standard of Indian team it was known for with Suresh Raina, Umesh Yadav, Yuvraj Singh or even Manish Pandey for some time is not the same anymore with Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya only what can be called gun fielders. The average age of the team is 29.50, but with as many as seven players above 30, they are not young anymore. India’s weakness on the field was apparent during the Australian home series where many fumbles showed some soft spots. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Kedar Jadhav are not swiftest though they are safe fielder which makes Virat field at boundary line during final overs and you do not want the captain to be standing that far. Luckily, India has Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni two senior and successful captains guiding team.

On big occasions or tight finishes, you would want to be closing out all easy singles like Indian fielders Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, and Virat Kohli did in the finals against Sri Lanka in 2011 which resulted in India saving 20-25 runs at least. Even Jonty Rhodes acknowledged that.

MS Dhoni is not the same in terms of his striking abilities no doubt he is the best keeper in the world with stumping he effects within a fraction of seconds even faster than Usain Bolt. However, he chews up many deliveries at the start and has been guilty of not finishing on many occasions. His IPL form no doubt was great as he singlehandedly took reigns of CSK batting with 415 runs. However, the World Cup is a different proposition altogether with best assembling against each other after four years or trials and success.

The lack of No.4 batsman and even patchy form of MS Dhoni means top order has to play conservatively and settle for average or par score. That means the pressure of fielders as well, which is under the scanner. 

India best striker in the middle order at the death Kedar Jadhav (136.39) is injury prone and whether he can stay fit for the entire course of the tournament is still a big question mark. Ravindra Jadeja has a strike rate of only 101 in death overs not great for a finisher. While Hardik Pandya at a strike rate of 127.60 comes in at no.7, perhaps a spot or two low.

So quite a few weakness for a World Champion to be a team. However, having said that if top order fires, India can make a mockery of any score given to them. The bowling will keep India in hunt and Men in Blue should not have issues reaching top four of the World Cup. 6 wins of 9 wins should do it for India. So if they do not make it to semis, it is as big a disappointment as World Cup 2007 early exit. Perhaps the top team qualify for semis do India have nerves to stand the test of time? Yes, they do after having played so much in IPL and being in the knockout of ICC events in the last four years.

Lack of X-factor

If Indian team needs 100 runs in last ten overs with all three back in the pavilion, does India have a batsman who can pull it off or evoke fear factor in the mind of opposing bowler to make mistakes of erring in line and length? Perhaps, Rishabh Pant would have been the right candidate who scored at strike rate of 162 in recently concluded IPL. Hardik bats too lower down the order in order to finish off close matches in partnership with the tail which is not renowned for its batting.

Bowlers around the World know MSD takes some time to get in and in if he has a bad day, it puts India way behind asking rate.

Long Tail

Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah have not shown in ODI that they can put up decent partnerships o even play big shots and hence India have been reliant on Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli to post a big total. In the absence of both batsman in overs 41-50, India scoring rates dip to 7.24 as compared to 8.33 they do when both star batsman bat in the death overs. If India makes the mistake of playing Jadeja to elongate their batting then India would have to break Kul-Cha pair, the result could mean opposition post above par score like they did during Australian series at home as Australia was able to chase 358 in the fourth ODI.

Top order chinks against left-arm bowlers

In the warmup game against New Zealand, Trent Boult showed chinks in the armory of the Indian batting lineup, their weakness against the left-arm bowler. Shikhar Dhawan in the past has had issues against Trent Boult as he got out five times before to the wily bowler. So has Rohit Sharma against Mohammad Amir, Trent Boult, Mitch Starc and Jason Behrendorff. So if the pitch has something on offer like one at Oval against New Zealand, India could find itself in trouble as all the team except for England, Afghanistan has a left arm bowler.

World Cup Likely position in the end

However, can those glaring weakness be covered in the semi-final or final against a team such as England or Australia? The answer is best left to you.

Sound off your thoughts!

Saurebh Gandle

Pic Courtesy: ICC