Team India has played some breathtaking cricket in the last few years when it comes to the 50-over format. Virat Kohli has led the side well and the team responded post the debacle in the finale of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. India have continuously won ODI series both at home and away. Only one major ODI series defeat came in between which was versus England in 2018. And now the side was beaten comfortably by Australia at home.
The 2-3 loss against the Aussies will serve as an alarm bell ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019. This was a series where India wanted to look at the squad and see the balance they get. But there are many questions that have come forward rather than solutions. India are ready for the World Cup in England and Wales, there is no doubt about that. But there is a chunk in the armour especially in the middle order.
The back-up players on the bench is another problem which could haunt the side in the World Cup. India allowed Aussies to make a comeback after going up 2-0. The common issue for India was the failure of the middle order. Ambati Rayudu flopped in three consecutive matches. Rishabh Pant, who was given a chance to show his mettle for the final two ODIs, also failed to take any charge. In the fifth ODI, his 16-run knock was forgettable as India failed to chase down 273 in Delhi.
Pant has shown that he isn’t ready yet for the biggest stage. His keeping skills were poor and there is no plan in his batting. The selectors may now be prompted to drop the player altogether from their plans and rope in Dinesh Karthik instead. Karthik was unfortunately dropped for the series as the management wanted to try out Pant. Rayudu on the other hand lacks the consistency. He has been backed for a long time and the string of strong shows are missing.
Rayudu cannot be trusted at this moment. But he will still get the nod for the World Cup. So what if he fails in the first few matches? India will need to reshuffle their batting and perhaps get in someone like DK in and promote MS Dhoni at number four. Hardik Pandya will be the natural number seven and his presence will be massive as an all-rounder. But what about Vijay Shankar? He cannot give you ten overs consistently. Also the back-up all-rounder isn’t a finished product and his immaturity was highlighted in the final ODI.
Shankar impressed prior to that by margins of decent displays, but there are question marks. Ravindra Jadeja’s failure with the bat means he will be overlooked. India are over dependent on the top order as highlighted once again. Their middle order holes could be the Achilles’ Heel in the World Cup. That could be their undoing. Virat Kohli and his side need to be mentally strong and make sure the middle order pulls up its socks.