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Virat Kohli’s challenge to dominant cricket blueprint – weak middle-order

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team has a brilliant top order and dazzling lower middle order, but middle order is the weak spot in this dominant set-up

india vs australia 2017 Updated: Sep 23, 2017 09:56 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, Indore
India vs Australia,IND vs AUS,Virat Kohli
Indian cricket Virat Kohli with Manish Pandey, who comes in at No 4 in the ODIs. While Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma -- the regular openers -- and Kohli at No 3, generally give India a solid start, the middle order has been iffy and has on my occasions shown signs of being weak, including in the ongoing series vs Australia cricket team.(AFP)

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team has done almost everything right to establish the current brilliant run in ODI cricket. India have won seven consecutive ODI matches and are on the verge of sealing a series win against Australia. Rohit Sharma, skipper Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan have all stepped up to win matches. MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya have formed a dazzling lower middle-order while the bowling, both pace and spin, is in great hands.

Virat Kohli is facing a problem of plenty in batting and bowling. With Shikhar Dhawan skipping the first three matches, Rahane stepped up and played a good knock in the Kolkata ODI. The performances of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been such that Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have not been missed.

Looking at India’s dominance, the question is whether the team is perfect. The answer is no. India have a problem and it concerns their middle order.

Not capitalising

After Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav are No 4 and No 5. With Dhoni and Pandya to come next, one would have expected Pandey and Jadhav to play their natural game and cement their spots in the Indian cricket team as they build-up to the 2019 World Cup.

However, both Pandey and Jadhav have not capitalised on the opportunities they have got. Ever since the Champions Trophy, both players have struggled. Pandey, who started with an unbeaten 50 against Sri Lanka in the Colombo ODI, has scored 36, 0, 3 in three further ODI games. In between, he scored 51 not out in the one-off T20 International in Sri Lanka.

Jadhav has tapered off after the England series due to lack of batting opportunities. After his 90* in the Kolkata ODI against England, Jadhav has played 16 ODIs but did not get a chance to bat in six games. In the remaining 10 games, he has managed only one fifty. However, Jadhav’s wicket-taking abilities have made his spot secure.

Lack of options?

Indian cricket team has few options when it comes to the middle-order. KL Rahul, who batted at No 3, 4 and 5 in Sri Lanka, managed scores of 4, 17 and 7. For India to truly dominate, they will have to sort out their No 4 and No 5.

This is the time of experimenting in Indian cricket and it has presented new challenges to the players. Kohli outlined it in the series against Sri Lanka, saying they are already planning for the 2019 world Cup. “Now is the time to give players certain roles to get into the groove and understand what we need to do,” Kohli said.

Another failure for Pandey and Jadhav might increase pressure on the duo and present a challenge to Kohli’s blueprint for domination.

First Published: Sep 23, 2017 09:49 IST