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With World Cup few months away, India's middle order problems continue

The heads of Men in Blue’s fans may already be crammed with stats on how their team’s middle-order has been as solid as a soggy paper bag, but here’s one more to drive home that point.

Published: 29th October 2018 01:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2018 06:56 AM   |  A+A-

India's captain Virat Kohli, right, is bowled out by West Indies' bowler Marlon Samuels during the third ODI between India and West Indies in Pune, India, Saturday, October 27, 2018. | AP

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Different day, same story. Days like the ones in Pune and Visakhapatnam make you believe that India’s batting line-up is made up of one man. Three, if that period is extended.

The rest? Well. That’s the sole brick wall — one that India have constantly banged their heads against, to no avail — that keeps them from being runaway favourites for the World Cup in England next year.

They rarely get chances, since Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli have buried oppositions under a pile of runs on most occasions. But when they do — like they did in the second and the third ODI against West Indies — India’s middle-order exhibit as much a threat as a fist-fighter in a gun battle.  

The heads of Men in Blue’s fans may already be crammed with stats on how their team’s middle-order has been as solid as a soggy paper bag, but here’s one more to drive home that point.

As per CricViz, among the 25 fifty-plus knocks that have been hit by India in 2018, only three belong to batsmen outside their top-three.

For getting an even bigger picture of how long this wound has been festering for India, all you need to do is rewind to the previous World Cup, and break down how the team’s batsmen have fared since then.

Even sans that No 4 slot — one that has been singled out as a particular spot of bother by skipper Virat Kohli — the rest below them really, really need to pull their socks up.

The difference in average between India’s top-three and Nos 5 to 7 since that event Down Understands at 28.68, the most for any team in this period. Mind you, these are figures of three batsmen (even though the very rare rejig up top brings that number to 13) being pitted against those of 22.

“Rohit, Shikhar and Kohli are as reliable as they can get. It’s just that they’re not being complimented in their style of play by the guys below,” remarked former India middle-order batsman Hrishikesh Kanitkar.

“Application is important, and that’s where they’re lacking. With the top-order in such splendid form, all they should be looking at is spending more time in the middle.”

Perhaps from the context of their most recent failure (in Pune) and in view of the rest of the matches in this series, the inclusion of an all-rounder in Kedar Jadhav — the lost match saw India go in without one — might serve as a band-aid of sorts for this problem.

But, stories on this issue always tend to involve a countdown to the World Cup, which now stands at 15 more matches at the moment. With eight of them being against Australia and five against New Zealand, a long-term solution is the need of the hour.

Kanitkar feels that this tourniquet will materialise only when India keep persisting with their current options, considering that the team management has already zeroed in on World Cup potentials.

“These matches needed to be looked at for testing out which players from the current mix compliment the top-order’s style of play. Not every middle-order batsman needs to have a slam-bang approach. They should be capable of switching gears when required.”

rahulravi@newindianexpress.com

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