After India won one day international (ODI) series in Australia and
New Zealand earlier this year, talk began to swirl of Virat Kohli’s team
being one of the favourites for the World Cup. The 2-3 ODI series loss
to Australia is evidence that such talk may be premature, and that India
needs to address certain issues before the showpiece event begins in
the end of May.
India has been missing the solid platform a strong
opening partnership offers. Prior to Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan’s
193 run stand in the fourth ODI against Australia, India’s opening
partnership was averaging less than 40 in 2019. Dhawan especially has
been poor. Between the Asia Cup in September 2018 and his century in the
fourth ODI, he scored 377 runs in 16 innings at an average of 25.13.
The middle order is brittle. The dependence on Kohli is too huge.
team selection remains a conundrum. Too much chopping and changing are
not allowing certain players to settle. In which position will KL Rahul
play? Will he play at all? What about Vijay Shankar? Who, among the
spinners, should be picked on flat English surfaces? There are no easy
Then there is the baffling insistence on sticking with
Mahendra Singh Dhoni instead of trusting in the future exemplified by
Rishabh Pant. Dhoni is no longer the finisher he used to be. He takes
too long to play himself in; the modern game, with its frenetic pace and
its trait of no total being secure enough, has left him behind. But
Dhoni is certain to be selected. As a result, only one of Pant and
Dinesh Karthik will be in the squad. Who will it be? It would have been
better to have had both.
Finally, there is the matter of
preparation. Between now and the beginning of the World Cup in England,
India’s first-team players will preoccupy themselves with playing in the
Indian Premier League. A long, exhausting, Twenty20 tournament is the
worst way to get ready for a World Cup. There is likely to be fatigue
and burnout; there is the chance of players turning up undercooked in
foreign conditions. The players know this. The cricket board knows this.
No one is saying anything about it.
A fair amount of work needs to be done. With India playing no more ODIs before the World Cup, quite how this will happen is unclear.