Can Team India defend its crown?
India currently has no bowling to speak of and the batting is completely dependent on Virat Kohli. But we do have a chance of reaching the semi-finals if MS Dhoni comes up with some innovative tactics; though past experience reveals that there is little chance of that happening.india Updated: Feb 04, 2015 18:45 IST
In a word, the answer would be no.
The team currently has no bowling to speak of and the batting is completely dependent on Virat Kohli. But we do have a chance of reaching the semi-finals if MS Dhoni comes up with some innovative tactics; though past experience reveals that there is little chance of that happening.
The first thing would be not to let Ravindra Jadeja come anywhere near the side! However this is nearly impossible given the enormous faith that Dhoni has in Jadeja, the basis of which has Indian cricket fans flummoxed. Playing Axar Patel or Stuart Binny would be more beneficial.
Binny especially deserves a longer rope as he's done well with the ball whenever given a chance; and his batting is better than Jadeja's as any person who regularly follows domestic cricket would tell you. Axar at the moment is the better bowler; while both are in awful batting form at present. So he makes the cut over Jadeja. Also, Axar might play a vital role in the death overs; given the dearth of options that Dhoni has at the moment.
With the other bowlers, Dhoni and Indian fans have no other choice but to pray that they get their form back; which should make the bowling at least mildly threatening. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and R Ashwin have to play as they all have done quite well in the recent past.
For the fourth bowler, Dhoni could either field Umesh Yadav or Ishant Sharma or even include both Axar and Binny; though I would go for Yadav despite his terrible recent form as he has the ability to get wickets; though he almost always gives away runs. The problem is Ishant is no better and it makes sense to opt for the bowler more likely to get wickets.
The batting is where the bigger worry lies for the Indians as this has always been regarded as our strength. However, as has been seen in the past, whenever the pitches have a bit of pace and movement, the much-vaunted Indian batting looks like cats on a hot tin roof!
The openers are a conundrum for Dhoni as Shikhar Dhawan looks out of sorts and Ajinkya Rahane has been erratic, but the good news is that Rohit Sharma has hit some sort of form. The importance of the openers when India is playing abroad can be gauged from the fact that we won the Champions Trophy in England when both Dhawan and Rohit were on song.
Kohli at number three will determine how far India will progress in the World Cup; it is as simple as that. His poor form in the tri-series coincided with India's winless streak and given the clear incapability of the others in such conditions; the batting will revolve around him. His pivotal role in the line-up is reminiscent of the 90's where the fans would switch off their TV sets if Sachin Tendulkar got out!
The less said about the other batsmen the better. You can expect a few flashes of brilliance from Suresh Raina; but he's probably not good enough for the better bowling attacks in the tournament on these pitches. Ambati Rayudu has been a real disappointment and does not look equipped for international cricket; not being able to either rotate the strike or hit the big shots.
That brings us to Dhoni. Captain Cool is one of the best batsmen in ODIs and is up there with the best finishers ever to play this format. The bad news is that, coming into the World Cup, his form has been patchy at best.
He also looks a tad uninterested and short of confidence, especially since his sudden retirement in Tests. His poor form has come as a huge jolt to the balance of the team as it has lead to a lack of finesse in the middle overs and firepower in the death overs; with Raina erratic and Jadeja and the others simply incapable of giving the team the acceleration it needs.
The saving grace is that the Indian tail can wag a bit with both Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar being competent batsmen. However, one feels that it would have to 'wag' a lot as the top order inspires no confidence whatsoever!
So, all in all, to win the World Cup we need both the batsmen and bowlers to hit form; and for others to play much below potential... in short, a miracle!
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First Published: Feb 04, 2015 03:20 IST