CHENNAI: Winning is a habit the Indian team is getting used to. Irrespective of formats, they have beaten everybody at home and away in the last few months. Real tests lie abroad, but Virat Kohli’s men can’t be faulted for getting the better of whoever came their way, in conditions they are difficult to beat.
If the transformation of bowlers into a match-winning unit was one standout feature in the victories over Australia and New Zealand, the other would be the success of the top-order. Be it 50 overs or 20, the top three has done a bulk of the scoring. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli contributed 528 of the 811 runs Indian batsmen made in the three ODIs against New Zealand. For the five ODIs against Australia, the top three’s contribution was 720 out of 1339. This means about 65% and 54% of the team’s runs.
Because the team is winning and the bowlers led by Jasprit Bumrah are giving fans something new to talk about, lack of runs from the rest has gone somewhat unnoticed. Otherwise, it would have drawn attention that of the four centuries and 13 fifties scored by India in these eight ODIs, those batting after No 3 contributed just five fifties.
Does this mean batting No 3 downwards is a concern, as India look for the best combination ahead of the 2019 World Cup? Or is the success of the top three denying others a chance to bat long and get bigger scores?
Former India coach and opener Lalchand Rajput feels it’s more of the second. “Because the top three are getting big scores, others are mostly coming in when they have to go for shots without getting time to settle down. Lack of big scores from the bottom can be attributed to this. It’s not easy to come in and start playing attacking shots. When one is forced to do that, there’s always chance of getting out early.”
Nonetheless, this offers a chance to look at other batsmen. There is a kind of musical chair going on for the No 4 slot, where Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav have not made the most of limited opportunities. Dinesh Karthik hit a half-century in that position in the seventh of the eight ODIs against Australia and New Zealand combined. Next match he was sent in at No 7 as India sent in big-hitters in search of brisk runs.
“It’s good to have all three in the mix and use them as and when required. Karthik adds value also as a wicketkeeper. Let’s have all of them in the squad and let the team management decide who they want to use and when,” felt Rajput.
Since winning combinations aren’t usually disturbed, expect the combination to remain. What next will be decided depending on how the top three and others fare in tests away from home.