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5 issues India must address after the series loss to England

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India_ODI_problems_World_Cup_CricketAlthough India began their stay in England on a positive note, pocketing the three-match Twenty20 series, the “away is also home” jargon has fallen flat after the Eoin Morgan-led unit outsmarted India in the last two of the three ODIs to win the series.

While India were looking at the 50-overs format of the tour as a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup, the ODI series loss has brought up more questions – some due to poor performances and some due to poor team selection – than answers.

Here are five issues which India must address in the build-up to the Cricket World Cup 2019:

1) MS Dhoni’s struggle is real

10,000+ ODI runs scored, 300+ catches taken, 107 razor-sharp stumpings and numerous wily runouts effected, and three ICC trophies won. There’s no doubting MS Dhoni’s place in Indian cricket’s Hall of Fame. But Dhoni the batsman is currently fighting a battle against time. Especially, in international cricket.

Though there were signs of Dhoni’s resurgence following his IPL 2018 heroics for Chennai Super Kings, in his three outings in England he has, to put it mildly, struggled. Especially during his 59-ball 37-run crawl at the Lord’s Cricket Ground, when India were chasing 323 runs in the second ODI against England.

Skipper Virat Kohli, Yuzvendra Chahal and assistant coach Sanjay Bangar all jumped in to support the former India captain but Dhoni, who still possesses an astute ability to read the game, will need to up his game as India struggle to fix the middle-order jigsaw ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

2) Number 4 slot: Musical chairs

Either there is no clarity about the personnel or there’s no patience to stick with a certain player, giving him a longer rope. The number four slot in India’s ODI set-up has become a walk-in interview that’s open for all. From your first time, it's a matter of luck, individual form and the team management’s mood on that particular day. If it is in your destiny, you will be picked to play on that day.

While Kohli & co. toyed with the ‘Ajinkya Rahane at four’ idea in the South African ODIs, he was dropped for Ambati Rayudu in the England ODIs. After Rayudu failed the Yo-Yo test, Suresh Raina, KL Rahul and Dinesh Karthik were trialed with Shreyas Iyer warming a chair in the dressing room.

There has been the ‘we are keeping all the options open’ defense in regards to the scenario of different personnel for different series, if not games. At any rate, India will need to plug the hole or face the music if any or all of the top three – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli – have a sub-par day in the World Cup, as they did in the ICC Champions Trophy final or the second ODI at Lord’s.

If the management thinks Rahul or Karthik is the answer for the number 4 problem, then allow the chosen one enough game time before the World Cup.

3) Lower-order troubles

As if the middle-order jigsaw is not enough of a concern, India have to address the lower-order wobble. Compared to England’s long batting line-up, India have a much longer tail. In international cricket, especially in the shorter formats, this is an Achilles heel. While Bhuvneshwar can bat against pace, bounce and spin, he lacks the power to dispatch balls into the stands, the way the David Willeys, Mark Woods and Liam Plunketts of the world do.

Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, for all their bowling prowess and ousting of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja from India’s limited-overs cricket set-up, are miles behind when it comes to batting. This is the case with Jasprit Bumrah too.

While Shardul Thakur cleared the boundary rope with ease in the third and final ODI of the series against England, his place in the playing XI is subject to Bumrah-Bhuvi’s fitness issues.

With the middle-order struggling to find ways to score runs consistently, the lower-order’s shortage of big-hitting ability adds more pressure on the top three.

4) The back-up pacers

India have been fortunate to have two of the best limited-overs bowlers currently playing – Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah – in their ranks. However, the limited-overs series in Ireland and England have given India a warning. The team will struggle if either or both of them get injured during or before the World Cup.

Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul, for all their other skills with the ball, went for runs in England. With Mohammed Shami continuing to play hide and seek with his injuries and Shardul Thakur still green in international cricket, India will need to fix the back-up pacers problem (even as Hardik Pandya shows the hunger to improve as a bowler). The sooner they do it the better.

5) KulCha are fine but India need their 6th bowler

Kuldeep and Chahal have not done badly enough to get the boot, but India will want someone who can run in and bowl 5-6 overs as well as give the team at least 30-40 runs, if not more, in every game.

Kedar Jadhav did that job before he got injured. Raina’s failures and the lack of another swing-bowling all-rounder (in addition of Hardik), imply that India are struggling to come up with a contingency plan if any one of their 5 bowling options have a bad day in the field.

If Kedar is fit for the Asia Cup or India are willing to give Rayudu another chance or try out Krunal Pandya, it may help the team solve the problem. It will also help the other five, providing them with a cushion. Kohli will have more options in the bank.

 

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