With the hosts piling on runs and recording big wins, the world cup has begun with a bang. Now comes the colossal clash between the sub continental cricketing giants which will bring two countries with a combined population of 1.4 billion to a standstill. Defending champions India take on Pakistan in their first game, at the home of crickets greatest run machine Don Bradman; Adelaide Oval. Unlike 2011 when they won the world cup, the preparation this time looks rugged and with mounting injuries, India will have to play out of their skins to get close anywhere to retain the cup.
No Indian fan would have imagined in their wildest dreams that they had to wait for the warm up game against Afghanistan to register their first victory down under this season. The victory was finally a relief after a very disappointing summer, which had sparks of brilliance but overall lacked any semblance of consistency in every aspect.
Traditional strength of India lies in their batting and they will be hoping for it to come good in the next 6 weeks if they have to reach to the final stages of this tournament. Dhawan’s cricket has regressed over time and his technical issues makes him suspect overseas. Losing a quick wicket early in every game is not how big games are won and if he cannot manage to get it right, the axe will be wielded sooner than later. Rohit Sharma has been in-form ODI player for India and his ability to score big runs will be heavily relied on by Indian team.
India needs Kohli power at its peak in this world cup and he needs to forget everything that happened in the ODI series preceding the world cup His big test will come on 15 February against Pakistan. Rahane has been the best player for India over the last one year and he will have to play the crucial run machine role in this world cup. India needs runs from the top four player to set up games for the finishers.
In Raina and Dhoni, India has the privilege of two top finishers of the game. Raina will have to once again fight the demons of short bowling and score runs on these bouncy wickets against bowlers who would have done their homework. This will be the last world cup for Dhoni and he will want to leave the stage with a strong statement. His legacy has already been established in the India cricket folklore and his calm and calculated game plans have been a great asset for this team. Once again expect him to rise up to the challenge.
Jadeja and Binny form the bowling all rounders in this team. With bowling as their strength they are also expected to make serious contributions with the bat. However with apparent technical glitches, they look suspect on the bouncy wickets. Jadeja, who till a year ago was the most reliable Indian bowler, seems to have lost the consistency and with injuries a plenty, he just doesn’t look ready. With no other option available, both will get games and whether they manage to perform or not will be a completely different question.
Historically India never achieved success at the global tournaments without attacking spinner(s). Ashwin and Axar Patel are the spin options for India in this world cup with the former expected to take his place. Dhoni will depend a lot on Ashwin to provide the calm, however with little or literally no support from the rest of the bowling attack he had to mold himself into more of a defensive bowler than an attacking one. If India has to progress they need Ashwin at his attacking best picking up wickets as he does in the sub continent.
Indian seam bowling has been nothing short of a disaster and their glaring inability has put pressure on the entire team and every team now fancies chasing any target against India. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s injury struggles have already put the team on back foot. Being the best of the Indian lot, his availability and ability to pick up wickets with the new ball will be crucial and he needs to get it spot on right from the ball one.
Umesh Yadav has the pace and swing to trouble lot of players, however his inconsistency and a boundary ball every over are hurting. How he bowls might define the fortunes of India in this world cup. Shami, the other pacer seems to have not developed as India expected. Inconsistency and muddled thinking in pressure situations affects his chances to get regular games. The final seaming option is Mohit Sharma, who is a replacement for injured Ishant Sharma. No matter which of these seamers play, India will be hoping that they don’t leak runs in bundles and provide some semblance of support for their batting counterparts.
Indian fielding has been excellent over the last few years but with their poor bowling capabilities, they cannot afford to drop any catches. India will need to play a five star game, every game to satisfy a billion dreams. On a more realistic note, India will do well to reach the semis.
Indian Team: Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (C&Wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Akshar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav.