Virat Kohli’s men may have hit back against the odds following heavy defeats in their first two games Down Under, but the team needs further improvement.
While it is easy to fall into the excuse of playing with a weakened team in the absence of Rohit Sharma, it’s time to change the brand of cricket altogether.
There can be no denying that much of this team’s success has revolved around the colossal efforts from the top three, a phenomenon that began as early as Champions Trophy 2013.
The template in that tournament, albeit a winning one, is carried on by this team as well. India’s attitude to limited-overs cricket seems to be following just one line of thought.
The instructions are simple – a hundred from the top three with not more than four wickets down by the 40th and enough ammunition to capitalise in the death.
While this approach is nothing new, yet as it turns out, it is not keeping pace with the evolution of the game.
Cricket, especially limited-overs cricket, has undergone a massive shift since 2016. That year, two teams – England and the West Indies – proved to the entire world that it is the run-rate rather than wickets left that puts a team in the driver’s seat.
The WT20 group stage game between South Africa and England is one to note.
Chasing a mammoth 230 in a must-win tie for survival, England got off to a fast start. However, by the tenth, they lost their captain, Morgan, and were reeling at 111 for 4.
Whether it was the demand of the situation or any pre-conceived template, England did not alter the pace of the game. Joe Root was playing no less than Glenn Maxwell, striking at over 180. Perhaps, that record chase in Wankhede signalled which way cricket would go in the years to come.
A similar situation also struck the West Indies in their semi-final bout against India. With the departure of Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle, West Indies’ pursuit of 189 looked off the mark.
Stunningly, they did not alter the pace of the game as well. Despite the lifelines, Lendl Simmons played at an unusually high strike rate, so did Johnson Charles. It seemed naïve at that stage, but that approach paid dividends in two vital games for both the teams.
While many witnessed the new dynamics of limited-overs cricket, Indian cricket was averse to change.
Until the 2019 World Cup, England’s approach to One-Day cricket got smeared in several cricketing circles on the subcontinent. It seemed that an all-out attacking approach would prove fatal in crunch games in the tournament.
In the World Cup, England lost games but won the big prize. And it was at this time, teams like India and Australia has to respond.
Australia did respond, but India has not.
Virat Kohli’s faith in the adage of keeping wickets in hand seems to be hurting India the most. The man who often talked of intent seemed to have failed to reinvigorate the team’s attitude to One-Day cricket.
(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)
The Indian middle-order has been absent for quite some time, after two years of searching for a decent number four. While all the major teams seem to have power-hitting batsmen as early as number five, it is only now that Hardik Pandya got promoted to number six.
Indian cricket needs to look for powerful attacking talents to slot in at number five, besides looking for Pandya and Jadeja’s back-ups.
More importantly, the batting does not stretch deep as well. With Ravi Ashwin not in the selection picture any soon, India has to look at bowlers with better ability to bat.
With six batters and one all-rounder at seven, India’s batting looks very thin to suit modern-day cricket. India’s over-reliance on the big three at the top has proved detrimental to the emergence of a strong middle and lower-middle-order- something which got visibly exposed in the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
Three to four decent all-rounders are a must in any international team, given the preponderance of 350 plus totals.
Excessive reliance on three top batsmen is never enough to keep pace with the rune-rate and consistently beat the milestones.
England’s success in many ways has to do a lot with the profile of players they get in their lower-middle order.
Even Australia is looking to exploit the power-hitting ability of Marcus Stonis, Pat Cummins, and Alex Carey following Maxwell at 5.
A deep and stable batting line-up seems to be one of the core foundations for posting significant totals and chasing down scores.
While Indian fast bowlers have certainly got better in all conditions, and fielding has improved a lot since MS Dhoni’s time, Indian batting remains a handicap.
Only the willingness to embrace the modern way of cricket can get them as far as England and Australia at this moment.