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5 problems India need to solve before the cricket World Cup

After the T20 loss in the West Indies, Team India has to pay attention to selection and strategy for the World Cup

India needs to give players like Yashasvi Jaiswal a chance.
India needs to give players like Yashasvi Jaiswal a chance. (AP)

Coach Rahul Dravid blamed it on lack of batting depth after India lost the T20 series in the West Indies (WI) this month. Skipper Rohit Sharma lamented the rotating door at No.4 in One Day Internationals (ODIs) since Yuvraj Singh graced that position. Points taken but there are other issues, such as the lack of proactive selection. Here are five takeaways from the Caribbean tour for India’s World Cup hopes in October-November.

Missed opportunity: India gave opportunities to Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and Ruturaj Gaikwad in the ODIs. But the young man in red hot form, Yashasvi  Jaiswal, who made 171 on Test debut on 14 July, had no place. He could have been accommodated instead of two wicketkeepers. And in the second ODI at Bridgetown on 29 July, India played with seven bowlers—and lost. 

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An exciting left-hander at the top of the order would bolster prospects. Kishan, preferred for this role, did get runs in ODIs but he’s inconsistent. Samson continues to squander opportunities. Jaiswal finally made his limited-overs debut midway in the T20 series, which followed the ODIs, and scored a match-winning 84 in 51 balls in his second game. 

Middle overs wicket-taker: Kuldeep Yadav proved on the WI tour that his comeback in Bangladesh last year was no flash in the pan. The left-arm leg-spinner was a regular wicket-taker in the middle overs of the ODIs and T20s—an invaluable asset—until the Windies chose to play out his four overs safely for 18 runs in the last match. He appears to be a shoo-in for Ravindra Jadeja’s spin partner in the World Cup. When conditions call for a third spinner, it will be a toss-up between Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel. 

The riddle of No.4: With neither Kishan nor Samson nailing the wicketkeeper-batsman slot, all eyes will be on K.L. Rahul when he returns for the Asia Cup after a thigh injury. On paper, he looks the ideal candidate for No.4. But since he prefers to bat in self-preservation mode these days,  it may be better to send him down the order to force him to unleash his full range of shots.

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That leaves Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer, who had an injury layoff. Yadav blows hot and cold between T20s and ODIs, unable to find the balance between attack and defence in ODIs. Iyer’s form wasn’t great even earlier. There is no clear solution.

Death overs exponent: The death overs have cost India several games over the past year. Arshdeep Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have bowled the kind of overs that turn a game. The emergence of Mukesh Kumar as a controlled death overs exponent on the WI tour is a plus.

The slow Caribbean pitches were similar to those on the subcontinent. So a bowler like Mukesh is a good prospect for the World Cup. Umran Malik, for all his pace, appears unable to progress to the next level of combining brawn with brain. Tall fast bowlers like Avesh Khan and Prasidh Krishna have belied their promise due to injury. The return of the tall left-arm quick, Mohsin Khan, after injury to the Indian Premier League looked promising but he doesn’t seem to be on the selectors’ radar.

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The all-rounders: Hardik Pandya’s loss of batting form on the Caribbean tour will be a worry. Managing him intelligently will be high up on Dravid and Sharma’s to-do list. In Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, India have two spinners who can bat as well as the specialists; Ashwin is no slouch either. That’s a good complement of spin-bowling all-rounders to join Pandya—and it may be a telling factor in the World Cup.

Sumit Chakraberty is a Bengaluru-based writer.

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