CHENNAI: The 13 Tests at home last season was a big moment for Indian cricket. Climb to the No 1 spot with victories against New Zealand, England and Australia, the team continued what had started in Sri Lanka in 2015. In the same period, the limited-overs team has been inconsistent and not quite what they want to be.
Not finding the right combination is a reason why things aren’t as good as they are in Tests. There are players who can win it on their day, but there are loose ends. Champions Trophy final might have been a bad day, but it was a timely reminder that India must focus on this format. Formidable ODI sides, which includes India’s 2011 World Cup squad, were not dependent on individuals.
The Sri Lanka series showed that in a departure from the past, India are willing to look at options with an eye on the World Cup. They have laid plans to invest in players who are fit and agile. And who better than Australia for a reality check? There will be experiments and the team will look for answers in the middle order, bowling combination and opening batting if players keep missing out.
The only middle slot that looks locked is that of Virat Kohli, as there is no guarantee MS Dhoni will head to the World Cup. That selectors are still keeping a tab on Suresh Raina, sheds light on where the middle-order stands. Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav are already in the mix, with KL Rahul. In the 2015 World Cup and 2017 Champions Trophy, India played without a regular No 4. Doing that again will leave the middle-order fragile.
Like in Tests, the ODI opening conundrum is also not ending. Apart from Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, there is Ajinkya Rahane and of course Rahul, who is vying for a middle-order spot. Rahane has found an opening and if he scores, it will complicate matters. Competition for places is good, but beyond a point when answers are not found, it can get tricky.
“If you look to bat in one position in all formats, it becomes difficult for the team to find the right balance. For example, I open in T20s. I should be flexible enough to do that. It’s up to the player to get versatile so that he can play in different positions. It takes time. Jinks said it’s difficult to switch. There will always be competition for a particular spot, but KL is an outstanding talent and he has proved himself in all formats. And he is someone who needs to be backed,” said Kohli.
In bowling, there is a problem of plenty. Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya. The question is, who will take the new ball?
India have tried Pandya, but that means Umesh, Bhuvneshwar or Bumrah not getting the first go. Add two wrist spinners, and there is good depth.