India need to address middle-over issues, in batting and bowling
By Aakash Chopra | Express News Service | Published: 20th June 2017 02:16 AM |
Pakistan barely managed to sneak into the Champions Trophy as the 8th ranked team. The way they were outplayed in the game against India justified their ranking and almost gave us a glimpse of their future in the tournament. Most, including their own, had written them off. Their cricket board had constituted a three-man enquiry committee to probe into the loss against India. And then something changed. They dropped Shehzad for debutant Fakhar, started the bowling attack with two seam bowlers, Hafeez was given a ball and the team transformed. Pakistan choked South Africa, got a little lucky against Sri Lanka, downed England in style and then brought their A game in the final.
Pakistan’s rise will always be scripted by their bowlers and in Amir-Junaid-Hassan-Shadab, they seemed to have found the match-winning combo. If they could somehow unearth one more Fakhar Zaman, their rise will not be limited to one Champions Trophy title.
On the other hand, India found out that while winning the trophy is tough, retaining the crown is a lot tougher. Even though India got lucky with the draw (India didn’t play Australia, New Zealand and England), it did fall short at the final frontier. Before we discuss the lessons learnt from the campaign, it’s important to acknowledge the way the team played in crunch situations. The way they annihilated South Africa and Bangladesh after the loss to Sri Lanka was a good indicator of how good this team can be.
Pandya - the batsman
Kohli has invested a lot of faith in Hardik Pandya and he justified the faith in the final. It was only the third time he finished his quota of 10 overs in his young ODI career and the way he batted showed that he’s arguably the cleanest hitter in this team. He has hit more sixes than any other batsman in the tournament despite playing only a handful of deliveries. While his bowling still needs work (must start bowling a lot fuller), his batting looks ready to take over the mantle of finishing from Yuvraj-Dhoni.
Swing is king
Flat batting surfaces have made speed an overrated asset and the only way to thrive with the white ball is to make it swing in the air. Even when most Indian bowlers were taken for runs, Bhuvneshwar was exceptional both with the new and old ball. Barring the game against Pakistan, his partner Bumrah also showcased why he’s been rated highly by one and sundry. It’s time we thank the IPL for giving us two bowlers who can be trusted to be as effective as some of the best death-over bowlers. Looking at Pakistan’s rise to the top, it was, perhaps, prudent to play either Shami or Umesh throughout. As they say, batsmen win you matches, bowlers win you tournaments. India was always a bowler light.
The way both Shikhar and Rohit combined to provide a solid and stable start almost every single time, it’s wise to put the opening combination debate to bed in the 50-over format. While there were no doubts about Rohit’s place, there were enough sceptics about persisting with Dhawan at the top. The southpaw has shown that he’s not just cracked the ODI code but has almost mastered it. He’s a creature of confidence and Virat’s faith in his abilities has paid rich dividends.
Muddle in middle
If there’s one area that needs addressing in 50-over cricket it’s India’s ability to pick wickets and score briskly in the middle-overs. If it weren’t for Jadhav’s golden arm, Bangladesh would’ve scored in excess of 320. Out of the four wickets that India took against Pakistan, one came courtesy a run-out and Jadhav took one. Ashwin and Jadeja haven’t been as effective as the team would’ve liked, and it allowed the opposition to pile on the pressure.
Since most teams go slow in the first ten overs, it’s critical to look for wickets in the middle overs and, unfortunately, it didn’t happen for India. Similarly, while batting, Indian progress got somewhat halted in the 31-40th over. Most teams look to accelerate post the 30th over and prepare for the final push, India could only do it if two of the top three were around and seldom after being 3-down at the 30-over mark.