Monday, 30th October 2017

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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: India’s problems lie in the ‘middle’

What troubled India in that match was their batting, and much of the criticism was targeted towards Mahendra Singh Dhoni

By TT Bureau in Calcutta
  • Published 27.06.19, 4:52 AM
  • Updated 27.06.19, 4:52 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Dhoni’s painfully slow approach against the Afghanistan yielded 28 off 52 balls and since then, he has been roundly criticised. (AP)

They haven’t lost a match yet, but they sure looked jittery in their last game. India, therefore, will be more than cautious when they take on the West Indies in Manchester on Thursday.

While India will look for another victory to ensure a smooth passage to the semi-finals, the Windies resemble a struggling lot, who have failed to live up the early promise they had shown in this World Cup.

Virat Kohli’s India will have to shrug off the tensions of a closely-contested win over Afghanistan in their last game and take a confident step against the Caribbean team.

The Afghans came like surprise test for the Indian team. They looked good enough to emerge victorious, but Kohli’s men somehow eked out a win.

What troubled India in that match was their batting, more precisely the middle-order. And once again, like several times in the last one year or so, much of the criticism was targeted towards Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Dhoni’s painfully slow approach against the Afghanistan yielded 28 off 52 balls and since then, he has been roundly criticised. Even the normally restrained Sachin Tendulkar has questioned Dhoni’s approach.

“There was no positive intent,” the usually reticent Sachin’s observation on a television channel has triggered a lot of debates.

So will we see something different being tried out on Thursday? Chances of that are slim, but the Indian team management will do well to have a rethink on Dhoni’s batting position. The former captain came in at No.5 in the last match. Either Kedar Jadhav can be promoted up the order ahead of Dhoni, or, may be Dhoni himself could be given a promotion to bat at No.4.

If Dhoni bats at No.4, he would get more time to adjust himself to the situation and once set, the world knows what he is capable of. But all that is mere speculation and captain Kohli may not tinker with anything at this stage.

Much will of course depend on the openers. If Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul can give a good start to the innings, other things can fall into place in an easier manner. If not, then the pressure will once again be on the middle order and it remains to be seen how the Indians react in such a case.

The Indian think tank haven’t looked too keen on using Rishabh Pant and so one guesses the youngster will have to wait.

The West Indies is a team loaded with fast bowlers, so it could be a bit easier for the Indians, including Dhoni, to rotate strike. The good thing for India is that there are no top-class spinners in the West Indies team. The way the Indians struggled against the Afghan spinners, another ‘slow’ test wouldn’t be too welcome for the Ravi Shastri-coached side.

The West Indies, on the other hand, will look to do well in their remaining matches.

Andre Russell being ruled out due to a hamstring injury has been a big blow for Jason Holder’s team.

However, the team, especially the fast-bowling department, has shown tremendous potential, especially Sheldon Cotterell and Oshane Thomas. With Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma being superb horizontal bat players, it promises to be a mouth-watering contest if they employ the short-ball tactic.

As far as ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle is concerned, a smashing match-winning innings is due and Kohli will be praying that it doesn’t come against his team.

Jasprit Bumrah’s opening spell against Gayle may set the tone, while the talented duo of Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer will be asked a few questions by Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.

Against New Zealand, Carlos Brathwaite played an amazing innings and took the Windies to the brink of a miraculous victory. However, Brathwaite has never been comfortable against the slow bowlers as he loves the length deliveries on the slot.