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India search for the right balance ahead of World Cup

After arriving on Wednesday evening, MS Dhoni will have enough time to wonder where the script has gone wrong. With no practice likely for the ‘fatigued’ Indians over the next two days, Dhoni needs to do some quick thinking.

cricket Updated: Jan 22, 2015 16:47 IST
Anand Sachar
Experts-have-tipped-India-as-the-favourites-heading-into-their-opening-World-Cup-clash-against-Pakistan-AFP-Photo
Experts-have-tipped-India-as-the-favourites-heading-into-their-opening-World-Cup-clash-against-Pakistan-AFP-Photo

After arriving on Wednesday evening, MS Dhoni will have enough time to wonder where the script has gone wrong. With no practice likely for the ‘fatigued’ Indians over the next two days, Dhoni needs to do some quick thinking.

Losing the first two games of the tri-series means India may get just two more matches before the World Cup.

Every world-class outfit is defined by consistency, but the Men in Blue have been unable to find the right balance.

Dhoni admits the team is ‘fatigued’, but it was known that the tour Down Under was going to last around four months. So, could this state have been avoided before the World Cup?

The batting order at the MCG nets on Saturday was bizarre to say the least. Mohammed Shami was the first one to take a hit along with Rohit Sharma. Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Dhoni came in towards the end, the time usually reserved for tail-enders.

Moving on to where it matters, Ajinkya Rahane came in to bat at No 3 against Australia. It must be a trial for the opener’s spot one assumed. But when Ambati Rayudu came out after Shikhar, who fell early again against England, the ‘battle-to-open’ logic fell flat.

Rohit sat out of the England game with a sore hamstring, so Rahane partnered Shikhar at the top. India’s regular No 3 Kohli was still held back, like in the first game.

Stuck in the middle

If there was debate about the opening spots before the tri-series, there could be uncertainty in the middle order too. “We want to make the middle order stronger. With (Ravindra) Jadeja not there, there is hardly any batting after Raina and myself,” said Dhoni.

When it was time to bowl, it wasn’t Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav or Mohammed Shami who kick-started India’s unappealing challenge of defending a lowly 159 against England. It was Stuart Binny. He stuck it out with the bat but where was the need to open the bowling with his medium pace? The chances of him repeating it at the World Cup are close to none.

Also, India went in without their No 1 spinner, R Ashwin. He has not run through batting units overseas yet, but by leaving him out to allow the young Axar Patel a game could lead to confusion in the dressing room. Axar’s talented, but Ashwin and Jadeja are India’s top spinners in the side.

“We have to see the best possible way to use Stuart,” insisted Dhoni, ignoring the timing of the experiments. According to him, this was a good time to give a new talent some experience. “Ashwin has played a lot of overseas games and Axar will get better by playing more.”

The tri-series was India’s opportunity to halt the slide and assure them with the World Cup fast approaching. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.