Team India has played some breathtaking cricket in the last few years when it comes to the 50-over format. Virat Kohli has led the side well and the team responded post the debacle in the finale of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. India have continuously won ODI series both at home and away. Only one major ODI series defeat came in between which was versus England in 2018. And now the side was beaten comfortably by Australia at home.
The 2-3 loss against the Aussies will serve as an alarm bell ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019. This was a series where India wanted to look at the squad and get the desired balance. But there are many questions that have come forward rather than solutions. There are doubts regarding the all-rounder’s place in case Hardik Pandya isn’t fully fit and also what is the best team in terms of team combination.
Australia on the other hand picked up momentum at the right time and two series win on the tour will help them draw maximum confidence ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019. India are one of the favourites for the World Cup in England and Wales, there is no doubt about that. But there is a chunk in the armour especially in the middle order.
The back-up players on the bench is another problem which could haunt the side in the World Cup. India allowed Aussies to make a comeback after going up 2-0. Losing the last three ODIs hurt the side as they succumbed to defeats that were pretty much big in terms of the situation and the results. Here we look at the key takeaways from the five-match ODI series.
India’s middle order questionable
The common issue for India was the failure of the middle order. Ambati Rayudu flopped in three consecutive matches. The number four position is once again under scrutiny. The question is that can Rayudu be consistent enough? He hasn’t shown that since a while now. Rayudu will make it to the World Cup, but his presence in the side is questionable.
Recently, Anil Kumble said that MS Dhoni should be the preferred number four after India’s decision to imply too many changes and chopping didn’t seem to work. The management would have thought that Rayudu will be the man to take the side forward, but that hasn’t happened clearly. Instead, there is a wave of vulnerability at the moment.
Perhaps, India should opt for Dhoni as a reliable source rather than the struggling Rayudu, who hasn’t done justice to the opportunities he has got. Barring a 47 and 90 in New Zealand this year, Rayudu has often struggled to find the momentum. Moreover, India’s over reliance on the top order was highlighted. Teams in the World Cup will know that if they manage to get the top three batsmen early on, then they will have every chance to break into this Indian side.
India failed to chase down gettable targets in the third and fifth ODI. That’s where the middle order will be questioned. Dhoni’s absence in the final two matches hurt the team. Also no matter who gets the nod, India’s middle order could be the undoing.
Rishabh Pant isn’t ready for World Cup
Let’s be honest here. Rishabh Pant, who was given a chance to show his mettle for the final two ODIs, also failed to take any charge. In the fifth ODI, his 16-run knock was forgettable as India failed to chase down 273 in Delhi. Prior to that, he started well in Mohali, but got carried away. Two massive chances and two failures mean that Pant’s place in the World Cup is questionable.
He was preferred ahead of Dinesh Karthik and the management wanted to look at him to see whether he could fit in the World Cup side. But Pant continued his awful show in ODIs. He hasn’t shown any composure in the five ODIs he has played in his career. And now he might lose his place for the coveted tourney in England and Wales.
Pant has shown that he isn’t ready yet for the biggest stage. His keeping skills were poor and there is no plan in his batting. The selectors may now be prompted to drop the player altogether from their plans and rope in Dinesh Karthik instead. Karthik was unfortunately dropped for the series as the management wanted to try out Pant.
India missed the services of Pandya
Hardik Pandya will be the natural number seven and his presence will be massive as an all-rounder. The player was missed badly in this series. India often lacked the fifth bowler, who could come in prove to be handy. Kedar Jadhav isn’t someone who can get you 10 overs. Same goes for Vijay Shankar. Pandya’s mobility and strength in that number seven was something the side lacked. Pandya has battled with injuries since a while now and hasn’t played much cricket.
If he doesn’t be 100% fit for the World Cup, then India will have issues. India played Ravindra Jadeja and Shankar in the series against Australia. Jadeja bowled well, but his batting is weak. He didn’t justify his credentials for the World Cup. Shankar on the other hand looked decent and is improving with time. But the back-up all-rounder isn’t a finished product and his immaturity was highlighted in the final ODI.
He succumbed to the pressure and tried playing big shots rather than following the simple route in the final encounter. The solidity was hence missed in the middle. A match-winning innings could have been the turning point. Shankar is likely to go as the second all-rounder, but he cannot deliver what a Pandya can in terms of the complete package.
Australia gain momentum at the right time
Australian opener Usman Khawaja was the real deal for Australia side. He seemed to have booked his position for the World Cup. What Khawaja did well was to maintain the consistency and not try out anything fancy. He stuck to his role of setting the platform for the Aussies. He built on his form and ended with 383 runs in the series.
His scores of 104, 91 and 100 helped Aussies get that desired platform to post big totals in the final three matches. The likes of Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner have shown that they belong at this level and they can be relied upon. Glenn Maxwell is showing his worth for the side as well and it’s a good sign for Australian cricket.
Spinner Adam Zampa has been a revelation with the ball and his wicket-taking ability in the middle overs could be crucial for Australia in the World Cup. He was consistent and got crucial wickets throughout. Another major highlight was fast bowler Pat Cummins. His form augurs well for the defending champions. The two players struck in important situations and kept the Aussies in the hunt.
Australia struggled big time in ODIs since the last two years and had a forgettable 2018. But at a crucial phase, they have found the mojo back. The impending return of David Warner and Steve Smith will only boost them further. It’s a promising sign this.