India was clearly close to nailing their best eleven for the ICC Cricket World Cup before the series against Australia. Although, Virat Kohli has always said that never takes any side for granted and the intensity remains the same for every game, this series was not a reflection of that. The lack of intent in the team was clearly evident, be it through sloppy fielding or the inability to win under pressure.
There is nothing wrong with experimentation. You are bound to do that if you are preparing for a major tournament. But the question that arises is; was it too late? In fact, one has to wonder was this much experimentation really needed?
At the moment, one has no idea whether Ambati Rayudu and KL Rahul will make it to the World Cup squad. Vijay Shankar looked promising but did not really blossom under pressure. Even Ravindra Jadeja has failed to make the spot of the team’s genuine all-rounder his own.
Perhaps, post the conclusion of the series, Indian team management has more questions than they had at the start. Here are some major questions that still hurt team India ahead of the World Cup.
#4 Will Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Kartik get the ticket ?
One would have thought that Dinesh Kartik’s performance in the last 18 months were enough to cement his spot as the back-up wicketkeeper. However, the team left him in a bit of limbo by deciding to pick Rishabh Pant in the last series before the World Cup.
Unfortunately, India did not find an answer either way. Pant failed to make the most of his opportunities with the bat. He did not impress with the gloves either. By the evidence of things, he did not do enough to deserve a spot in the final squad.
Undoubtedly, Pant is one for the future, but it will be interesting to see whether India now goes back to the experience of Kartik or not. It might come down to IPL form at the end of the day.
#3 Does India have a Number 4?
“Options galore, solutions pending”; this phrase clearly defines the long-going number four conundrum for the Indian team. Even Virat Kohli himself might not remember how many different batsmen he has tried at that position. The Yuvraj-Raina era is long gone and the men in blue have since struggled to find
It looked like the search had stopped at Ambati Rayudu, whom even Kohli talked about highly. Since his comeback in the Asia cup, Rayudu has amassed 431 runs at an average of 53.87. In fact, He was India’s leading run-scorer in the series against New Zealand last month.
However, after a string of poor scores, Rayudu lost his place in the team. One would feel that you ought to give a longer rope to the players whom you back. Perhaps, he was only given a rest; if not India have dug a pit for themselves.
#2 Who are India’s spin options?
It will not be wrong to say that the duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have played the most important role in making India a formidable white-ball side in the last two years. They have picked up crucial wickets through the middle over of the innings and have bamboozled ides in all kinds of conditions. However, out of the last ten ODIs at home, they have played together only in three games. So the question is why is the team trying to repair something that is not broken.
The primary reason is India’s lack of batting depth with Hardik Pandya missing. India does not have a tail which is competent with the bat. They need a genuine all-rounder at number 7. Apart from Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja comes to mind for filling that spot. He has been given the opportunity due to which one of Chahal or Kuldeep has had to sit out as going with three spinner might be a big risk.
More often that not, Chahal has been the one in the firing line. He missed the first two ODIs against Australia in Australia. Even in this series, he only played one game, where he was very expensive. One got to feel for him as he had to pay for no fault for his own. Due to this, he might go into the World Cup down on confidence.
#1 What lies ahead for KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar?
KL Rahul has had a roller-coaster ride in the last few months. Evidently, Kohli and team management have always rated him highly. He was given a long rope in 2018 despite him being completely out of form. In fact, Kohli was ready to push him down to number 4 to allow him to bat at number 3.
He was even recalled for T20Is against Australia after his suspension was lifted due to comments made on a chat show. While he looked good in the shortest format, he only got to play one game in the 50-Over series. The dilemma that arises is that can a player be taken to the World Cup purely based on T20 form? If not, then why was he given more chances in this series.
Vijay Shankar, on the other hand, came to fill the void of Hardik Pandya in New Zealand and his batting ability has caught the eye of the team management. He put on a great partnership with Kohli in Nagpur, which would have impressed the captain. He has shown the composure to bat efficiently in the middle overs and also provide a few overs the ball. However, he has failed to prove himself as a match-winner. He did bowl an important final over at Nagpur but failed to perform in tough chases at Ranchi and Delhi. His selection in the squad could go down to the wire.