It is not easy to live with the burden of losing or even, let’s say, not winning. Though India’s title defence has begun on a positive note, doubts still linger over their ability to successfully see it through. However, they still have time to get ready for the big days, of which only three are needed to keep the Cup. The bigger picture is not to mind losing the smaller battles that lead to the bigger war.
Yes, India’s record has been dismal in the past few months. But the men who have taken away the coveted 11kg gold and silver trophy just 4 years ago are capable of doing almost anything on their day. Every team has its strength and weakness, and India’s strength is, and always has been, batting, just as their perennial weakness is bowling.
If you put India’s batting talent on one side, and put together an All Star batting lineup on the other side, the deadly mix of a Sharma, a Dhawan, a Kohli, a Rahane, a Raina and a Dhoni, backed by a Jadeja and an Ashwin, will still be a standout winner. On the other hand, you will not have to look at even one Indian bowler while picking an All Star bowling attack.
A batting side to die for
Rohit Sharma is best at the top of the order. His initial edginess turns into regal elegance the longer he stays on the strip. He showed that quite clearly against Afghanistan in the warm up game. It definitely was not a threatening attack, but then again: when he gets going, no attack is threatening.
His partner at the top has the same issue. He may not be pleasing to the eye, but if Shikhar Dhawan can overcome the demons of the first ten overs, he can unsettle the opposition’s plans. He showed his mettle in that gritty innings against Australia in the first warm up game, as well as in the win against Pakistan.
In Ajinkya Rahane, the team has the most stable anchor since Rahul Dravid. His unflappable demeanour, in good or bad situations, is an excellent complement to the other aggressive batsmen in the team. The man to either precede or succeed him in the batting lineup is one of the best in the business.
These days, Virat Kohli is the only thing that matters to the opposition. Getting him early cheaply is half the battle won for most of the top sides. If they allow this Delhi dasher to settle, then it’s a leather chase for the opposition. And he likes it when the going gets tough; he likes to give it back then.
Suresh Raina has a lot to prove and if he can solve the puzzles cluttering his mind, there are only a few in the side who will find as many elusive boundaries as him. Besides, he adds far more value on the field than anyone else. If he can find some form, Kohli’s middle order burden can be shared.
Then in comes the skipper, who is like the world’s toughest Sudoku. You can try deciphering him a hundred times, but you still cannot see the solution. Captain Cool’s calm state is not really liked by fans and pundits these days, but remember that this same man led us to a World Cup win with this same attitude. So let us pray that this veteran ensures his ‘helicopter’ brings down the world to his feet again.
Ravindra Jadeja has not found his mojo yet, but enjoys the solid backing of his captain and his team. They would bet their last penny on the Saurashtra all rounder, who showed his value with a wicket and a catch against Pakistan. His stump-to-stump left arm cherry slings and indefatigable energy in the outfield add great value despite his less than stellar batting.
Post-Jadeja comes India’s not-so-strong side, their bowling.
A bowling attack one can’t live with
If this bowling attack achieves even half of Glenn McGrath’s consistency, it can ensure India stays longer in Australia. R Ashwin is as intelligent as any spinner in the world, but has not been as consistent as he was in the past. He still is India’s most attacking bowler, first choice spinner and should feature in all games.
In Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami, India has the pace but lacks consistency. Though Yadav showed his prowess in one of the ‘A’ tours to Australia, he has sprayed more often since his return to the main team.
Shami’s case is somewhat similar. The Bengal pacer has the ability to swing the ball both ways and reverse swing as well, but his problem lies in the rudderless bowling that was on display during the Tests down under. He hits the pitch almost everywhere. A little bit of discipline and these Australian pitches can do wonders for him.
Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will have to fight it out for a spot. If India wants to entrust new ball in the hands of Shami and Yadav, the third pacer spot will go to Mohit as he has more pace than Kumar. If any of the fast bowlers show inconsistency, Bhuvi will come in and do his new ball magic (depending on his injury).
All’s well that ends well
Ambati Rayadu, Stuart Binny, Axar Patel and one of the four fast bowlers will be India’s back up. Beating Pakistan is one thing, but if India gets going against South Africa with this XI, don’t expect too many changes through the tournament. That was their hallmark during their successful Champions Trophy campaign in England.
They are hurt, but they look ready. They don’t want to give it back.