Time for Indian cricket team to introduce upgrades, take call on MS Dhoni
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Time for Indian cricket team to introduce upgrades, take call on MS Dhoni

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team was the clear favourite going into the ICC Champions Trophy final vs Pakistan cricket team, but the rivals played an inspired game that unsettled the defending champions.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 19, 2017 15:45 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Champions Trophy 2017,ICC Champions Trophy,India vs Pakistan
MS Dhoni of Indian cricket team walks off the field after getting dismissed in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy against Pakistan cricket team on Sunday. Dhoni will be almost 39 when the next World Cup arrives. Although he is up there in terms of fitness and reflexes, the selectors can’t afford not to nurture young talent (Getty Images)

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” goes the saying, but one was left wondering whether the corollary could be true after India suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy final on Sunday.

Virat Kohli’s side was a clear favourite going into the match as India’s strengths and Pakistan’s weaknesses were analaysed threadbare. In the end, an inspired Pakistan proved too much for their neighbours.

Once the emotion of a crushing defeat in the final, that too at the hands of Pakistan, subsides, it would become clear that the time has come for India, despite not much being broken, to seek upgrades.

Top-order plans

Ahead of the semifinal against Bangladesh, something seemed to snap in Virat Kohli when a journalist asked him to assess India’s consistency in ICC tournaments. After all, the 2011 World Cup winners claimed the Champions Trophy two years later and then reached the 2015 World Cup semifinals, losing to the team that was, by far, the best in the competition.

The new breed

Finishing as a finalist in the latest ICC tournament shows India’s strengths in limited-overs cricket. In between, they also reached the World T20 semifinal in 2016, losing to the West Indies, the eventual winners.

“I’m very happy you have said semifinal is consistency because hamare yahan agar India jeetega tho kharab tournament ho gaya (in our place if India win then it is considered a bad tournament)!” One is not sure about the touch of cynicism but it could be aimed at heavy criticism by the media and fans if the team slips up.

Kohli went to explain why he was happy with the breed of new players, and the importance of winning itself.

“In our country, the happiness of winning a game is something so special,” he said.

But with the next World Cup only two years away, India may have to give their plans a shakeup. The concerns of what will happen if the top three batsmen fall in a heap, and early, came true. Pakistan could have perhaps won only in one way, getting Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli early and cheaply. They did that, and against an inspired bowling attack, India’s innings folded with almost 20 overs left.

That means the template of a steady rather than spectacular start may have to be changed to make batting more robust going forward.

In England (2013 and 2017 Champions Trophy) and Australia (2015 World Cup), the pitches were rolled out nicely, but in this tournament, teams were also lucky not to feel the full force of the Australian bowling as rain played havoc.

Bulging middle

The other big question for India ahead of the 2019 World Cup, to be played in England, is the need to get a middle-order in place that can allow the top three to play without too much concern.

MS Dhoni, no longer an impact batsman in the end overs, will be almost 39 when the World Cup arrives. Although he is up there in terms of fitness and reflexes at the moment, the selectors can’t afford not to nurture young talent and ensure he gets enough games to be ready for the big tournament.

Yuvraj Singh too is in the mid 30s. India will need batsmen who can rally the team after early setbacks like Sunday, as well as contribute on the field. The time for rebuilding is thus upon the team.

Fresh hands in the middle-order become so vital as only Hardik Pandya among the three all-rounders – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja the others – has been delivering with bat and ball consistently.

First Published: Jun 19, 2017 15:31 IST