Why IND have little to fear of Rohit, Kohli being untested in crucial WC aspects | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Why Team India has little to fear despite in-form Rohit, Kohli not being challenged in crucial aspects at 2023 World Cup

Oct 29, 2023 10:01 AM IST

Should India have any reason to fret over being a side yet to be tested on that grounds in 2023 World Cup?

After 28 games in World Cup 2023, which is past the half-way mark, India remain the only team yet to be beaten. South Africa, the present table-toppers, have incurred a solitary loss, a shocker against Netherlands, in six games while India stand second with as many wins, but only separated in terms of net run rate. In five matches so far, they have beaten five-time champions Australia, arch-rivals Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and New Zealand. On Sunday, the hosts will be up against defending champions England in Lucknow, with a win likely to guarantee them or virtually send them to the semifinals of the World Cup for the second time in a row. Yet, in all those five games, India are yet to be tested in a crucial aspect.

India's Virat Kohli arrives to bat as team's captain Rohit Sharma (R) walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match between India and New Zealand (AFP)
India's Virat Kohli arrives to bat as team's captain Rohit Sharma (R) walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match between India and New Zealand (AFP)

The commonality in all those wins India scripted in this World Cup was that the team ended up as the chasing side. With captain Rohit Sharma laying the foundation early on and chase master Virat Kohli and KL Rahul carrying the momentum with ease, India have looked indomitable as a chasing team. They were put to bat second on three occasions - against Australia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - and opted to field first against Pakistan and New Zealand. But do India equally pose as a threat when batting first in a match?

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India still have four league games left to test their ability as a side that can set the tempo early in a match and post big totals. And with the home team almost a certainty for the World Cup semifinal spot, the time couldn't be more perfect for India to take that risk. India would surely not want to risk themselves of a such a challenge in the knockout round. But should India have any reason to fret over being a side yet to be tested on that grounds?

The answer is a resounding no. And it's the numbers that speak on behalf of the team.

Since the last World Cup in 2019, India have scripted 20 wins in 34 matches where they have batted first, which indeed is the most by any side, but the tally of 11 defeats leaves the team's win-loss ratio of 1.818, third behind South Africa (2.83 - 17/20) and Pakistan (1.85 - 13/20). But that doesn't paint the entire picture.

Seven of those 11 losses came between the previous World Cup and November 2022. Post the T20 World Cup in Australia last year, when the team shifted their entire focus on the 50-over format, India lost 4 times batting first in 13 games and they weren't a full-strength squad in three of those matches. In the tour of New Zealand, Bangladesh and West Indies during this period, India had lost a match each and some of the top players in Kohli, Rohit, among others were rested. Their only defeat with a full-strength squad came in Visakhapatnam against Australia earlier in March when they were thrashed by 10 wickets.

India's most recent success batting first with the World Cup squad in tact includes two resounding wins in Asia Cup - by 228 runs against Pakistan and 41 runs against Sri Lanka - before they beat the Aussies in Indore by 99 runs.

India hence won't mind if thrown the challenge in the remaining league games and it seems the team management has also spoken about that possibility.

"We have not really gone too much into it. So whatever opportunities we've gotten we've done well but again it will be a good opportunity if in the next four games if we can get to bat first. It'll be a good challenge for us to just see how to pace the innings and it's been some time since we've batted first," KL Rahul said in the pre-match presser on Saturday in Lucknow ahead of the England game.

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