The heart of the matter is that the India have less than eight months and around 18-odd games to address the pivotal aspects ahead of next year’s ICC World Cup 2019 in England. It is set to be a busy phase for the Indian side starting with a 5-match ODI series against the West Indies at home.
The visiting Windies unit, are battling several issues and may not provide the ideal fight that would have tested India for their preparations. But what it does is that it gives several players to come and show the worth with several spots in the side still up for grabs.
One can expect India to use this series for testing new combinations in the starting line-up. We have an idea of what the squad could look like come the World Cup, barring some positions that look tricky at the moment. India will be looking to keep the conditions in mind to select the ultimate 15-man squad to challenge for the coveted trophy in England.
The present squad has been announced for the first two matches to show that things could be tweaked to have a look as the management seeks experimentation. If India are settled in some departments, there are questions elsewhere. Also injuries and players being in and out of the side is something that needs to be kept in mind.
Here we decode the aspects India will be aiming to have a look at in the 5-match series in view of having a clear picture of the World Cup.
India’s top order looks largely sorted
India’s top order in the limited overs’ is currently one of the most reliable unit in world cricket. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli have all combined to score impressively both at home and outside the subcontinent.
In terms of top individual run getters in 2018, the first three spots are held by England. Then comes Dhawan in the mix. The Asia Cup 2018 hero has 785 runs to his name in 14 ODIs. He has played considerable less matches as compared to England batsmen.
Dhawan was a revelation in South Africa as well and he is complimented soundly by Rohit. In 14 matches, the senior player has amassed 641 runs. Then there is Kohli, who skipped the Asia Cup. But in the 9 matches he played this year, he has been outstanding with 749 runs at an average of 124.83.
What bodes well for India is that the trio have 9 centuries between them this year. That speaks volumes of the work they have been doing in setting the base for India. India have been fantastic as a side and have played some brilliant cricket throughout.
Besides the 1-2 series loss against England, India have had a stellar record. And credit goes to the trio for being the pillar of the success.
KL Rahul is the player that adds the depth in this top three. Rahul will be hoping to get a game or two and be getting the touch required to keep himself ready.
But the middle order is an issue
The middle-order has seen it’s ups and downs. Nobody has managed 300+ runs this year that shows how far the side is lacking in this department. In the Asia Cup too, the performances by the middle order wasn’t convincing. Also another reason is that many players have come and played. Therefore, there has been a lack of clear vision.
After trying many faces, India now have Ambati Rayudu to be the one in the number 4. Skipper Kohli has already expressed the desire to back the player, who was solid in the Asia Cup. But Rayudu just solves one position and that is number 4. What about the rest?
Veteran wicket-keeper batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni has lost his famed finishing prowess. Dhoni’s form is indeed a cause of concern for everyone. He was far from his best in the Asia Cup, scoring 77 runs in four innings with an average of 19.25 and a strike rate of 62.09.
The former skipper has batted 10 times in 15 matches, averaging 28.12 with a strike rate of 67.36. He will be playing the World Cup in England, a country where he is yet to score a century in 20 ODIs and averages 38.06, a sharp drop from his career average of 50.61.
Therefore this series is crucial for MSD to get some much needed runs.
With versatile Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav unavailable due to injury, the series will provide the opportunity for players like Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant. The management has picked Pant as the frontline batsman here.
Can he take over from MS and show that he could be the finisher? An in-form Pant can challenge for a spot that Jadhav holds and that could bring healthy competition. That could mean the end of the road for Manish Pandey, who continues to warm the bench in the side.
How does the bowling look?
India have rested their frontman pace bowlers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. Besides the duo, there are places in the pace quartet that are up for grabs. India are likely to choose 4 pacers for the World Cup with Pandya as the fast-bowling all-rounder.
So who it could be? Like the middle order, several faces have come and gone. Siddarth Kaul, Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar haven’t been any good. Left-arm Khaleel Ahmed is a promising talent. And expect the bowler to get at least a game or two in this series.
There are opportunities for Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, who make a return to the ODI scheme of things. The duo will be the go to bowlers in the 5-match series and if they impress, there is a chance that they would fly to Australia for the limited-overs series.
Both have excelled in Tests and they would be seeking to use the confidence and build on the form. Khaleel looks like a reserved bowler and could provide the base in this pace bowling mix.
It is the spin attack that look strong. Kuldeep Yadav has taken 36 wickets this year in this format and his partner Yuzvendra Chahal has bagged a decent looking 24. So one expects the two to lead the line for a long period in ODI cricket.
There is a chance for India to look at Ravindra Jadeja as the third spinner here. He picked 7 scalps in the Asia Cup after making a return to the side post a year in oblivion. Jadeja brings immense qualities and if he bags wickets and scores runs too, then he will be benefitted as India will be eyeing to take two genuine all-rounders to England in May.Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, INDvWI, India vs West Indies, ICC World Cup 2019