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Fancied India must begin well in tricky World Cup

Given its top order and bowling, it will be a shock if the team doesn’t reach the semis.

editorials Updated: Jun 05, 2019 07:48 IST
Hindustan Times
cricket world cup,indian cricket team,2019 cricket world cup
The Indian team has both the world rank one batsman in Virat Kohli and the world rank one bowler in Jasprit Bumrah.(BCCI / SPORTZPICS)

India’s campaign in the 2019 cricket World Cup will start today in Southampton against South Africa. Virat Kohli’s team is starting late — the World Cup started on May 30 — because of the Indian Supreme Court’s mandated gap of 15 days between the Indian Premier League and international matches. The delay has allowed the players to acclimatise to the English summer and the team should be ready to take on South Africa, which is battling poor form and several injury concerns.

The team selection for the World Cup has had its share of controversies. But those debates are useless now and India has got to make the best use of the players it has at its disposal. Fortunately, with his century against Bangladesh in the warm-up game, KL Rahul seems to have, at least for now, closed the debate for the number four slot. With no injury concern — Kedar Jadhav has regained his fitness — the pitch and weather will continue to determine the exact playing eleven in each match. Without a single dominant team, this World Cup was slated to be the most open and competitive ever. And the first week has lived up to the promise: Bangladesh has already beaten South Africa; the West Indies hammered Pakistan; and Pakistan beat tournament favourites, England. So while India may be good enough to beat many of the other teams, the very same teams are also good enough to beat India. A lot will depend on how things unfold on match days.

Still, it will be a shock if India doesn’t make it to the last four. It is No 2 in the rankings; it is one of the pre-tournament favourites; it has the best bowling attack in the game; and, in Kohli, it has one of the all-time titans of the modern game. But the middle order is shaky. And the team is overly reliant on its top three batsmen — Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli — for runs. Flat tracks will play into India’s hands. But this is the beginning of the English summer. And the conditions can be tricky. Some of the matches have shown that bowlers, with pace and swing, can be decisive. If there is such movement, though, only Kohli is technically sound enough to be able to deal with it. On paper, India look a strong enough side to take on all comers. In reality, things may be a touch more complicated.

First Published: Jun 05, 2019 07:48 IST