Not just opening, team India would find tough to decide its final bowling composition as English conditions would lure to add third pacer at expense of Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja
By Manoj Chaturvedi
It’s always a pleasure feeling warmth during winter and Virat Kohli’s em India is doing exactly the same. Out of eight Test matches that we played this season, India won seven while one was a draw. Indian team won the crucial ODI series against England by 2-1, which reflects Kohli’s ability to sail out India in the Champions Trophy in June. However, there are some areas of concern that Team India needs to take care of ahead of the ICC gala, especially when we are going there as defending champions.
Ever since, Rohit Sharma has got injured, opening has become a major problem for India. New opening pair comprising of KL Rahul, Shiukhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane have miserably failed to give India a flying start. Our openers failed to go beyond 14 runs in any of the three ODIs against England. Dhawan has been major disappointment as he was supposed to give India a stable pair with either of Rahane or Rahul but the southpaw failed to rise on this occasion. Failure of all three must be a cause of headache for new Indian ODI captain even when Rohit Sharma comes out of the injury because either of these three would be required to pair Sharma at the opening slot.
However, Virat Kohli thinks otherwise. He is of the opinion that these players are a mere two good innings away from their respective forms. Since, all Indian openers would be playing IPL before going to England for the Champions Trophy, Indian management has fair amount of time to decide which player would be the right choice for the opening slot. But, what if these players fail to shine even in IPL? None of the IPL Team owner would afford to provide opportunity to these players to get their rhythm back at the expense of Tem Franchise IPL prize money. If Rohit Sharma too shows some tizzies after coming from the injury, then opening would become a tough nut to crack for Team India and it would expose our captain Virat kohli quite early than expected in majority of the matches as he bats at No. 3 in ODIs. Expecting Kohli to repeat his Pune performance all the time is fairly unjust with the ‘run chase machine’ as so does defending our Champion Trophy title.
In last few years, Team Indian is heavily depending upon Kohli in ODIs which is good when it comes to inspire other batsman to perform in sync with their captain. But, it’s bad too, especially when Kohli perishes early because it puts the whole team under enormous amount of psychological pressure, as it happened in mid nineties when Sachin Tendulkar was at peak of his career. Remember, Champion Trophy would be held in England where Kohli failed quite badly when Team India went immediately after it won the World Cup under MS Dhoni. So, Virat would be quite aware about the flaws in his batting technique and opposition would definitely try to exploit that mental block available in team India’s ODI captain.
In middle order, Kedar Jadhav has performed well by amassing 232 runs from three ODIs against England. He was well supported by Hardik Pandya while chasing the epic target in Pune. Pandya was a surprise package as the all rounder attracted praise from both bat and ball and hence, our middle order looks balanced if both Jadhav and Pandya continue their performance in England too. But, both would be playing for the first time in English conditions and hence their lack of experience might be a impediment in India’s defense to their Champion Trophy title. Ravindra Jadeja too was quite impressive as an all rounder but he needs to realize that he is now a senior fellow and must sharpen his ability to finish off things rather leaving it for others. Had he shown that sense of responsibility, we could have won the Kolkata ODI too. But, in ODIs, Ashwin was an embarrassment for Team India as the offie was more interested in containing the opposition run rate rather picking wickets. Ashiwn has to realize that his major job is to take wickets in the middle overs, which would automatically put brakes on the run rate of the opposition. He should continue the way he bowls in test matches. To win at the ICC Champions Trophy, team India expects from Ashwin, Jadeja and Pandya to complete their 10 over quota and amass quick fire 20-25 runs in the death over because now these three are the all-rounder on whom the team management is relying heavily.
Their all round performance would ease the pressure from our pace department which comprises Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jaspreet Bumrah, Dhawal Kulkarni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar because team management is hit by injuries to which these players are prone to. Their regular injuries lefts little option to the Indian captain to contain the opposition from free scoring in death over. But, Virat believes that playing in IPL would help these bowlers to get their rhythm back and sharpen their technique to contain the opposition batsmen in slog over. These pace batteries must remember that they would be competing against South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand whose batsmen perform much better in swinging condition. So, Virat Kohli has a tough task ahead of the ICC Champion Trophy in the bowling department. Whether to go with two pacers or adding an extra pace by sacrificing either of Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja because Hardik Pandya can be useful in the swinging conditions of England.