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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Batting woes for India ahead of series decider against England

Batting woes for India ahead of series decider against England

July 16, 2018 16:18 IST

The No. 4 slot is considered the most vital position for any successful ODI side, yet India are struggling to find a solution to their revolving door conundrum for some time now.

IMAGE: Liam Plunkett celebrates the wicket of KL Rahul during the second ODI at Lord's. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Their middle-order frailties laid bare in the previous match, India would be aiming to plug the loopholes in Tuesday's series-deciding third and final ODI against England, where a win would fetch Virat Kohli's men their 10th successive series triumph.

Smarting from their 86-run loss at the Lord's after winning the first game in Nottingham by eight wickets, India have their task cut out.

 

Victory in London confirmed England's spot as the No.1 ODI side in the ICC rankings. A win for India at Headlingley will only help close the gap and hand them the bragging rights before the five-match Test series, which begins on August 1. India had won the T20I series 2-1.

The Men in Blue have been on a high-flying streak in bilateral ODI cricket.

Going as far back as January 2016, when they last lost 4-1 in Australia, India have won every bilateral ODI series since, beating Zimbabwe, New Zealand (twice), England, West Indies, Sri Lanka (twice), Australia and South Africa, both home and away.

It is also another opportunity to ascertain their ODI supremacy over England, for India haven't lost a bilateral contest to this opposition since 2011.

Umesh Yadav

IMAGE: Fast bowler Umesh Yadav along with Siddarth Kaul and Hardik Pandya struggled in the death overs in the Lord's ODI. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Since that 3-0 loss in England seven years ago, India have enjoyed the upperhand, winning 10 out of 17 matches.

England have been found out to be a sterner prospect in ODIs than T20Is as their Lord's victory in the second match underlined.

In turn, it also highlighted India's glaring weaknesses in the 50-over format, which are shielded to a certain degree in T20 cricket.

While India's spinners were in contention throughout, the pace attack lacked penetration, particularly in the death overs. 82 runs were conceded in the final eight overs at Lord's, with Umesh Yadav, Siddarth Kaul and Hardik Pandya conceding 62 between them in six overs as they struggled at the death.

This underlines India's dependence on Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, who fared exceedingly well in limited overs cricket in the last couple of years.

Judging by his exploits on the last two tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa, Bhuvneshwar is a huge miss for India in this ODI series and there is no official word on his fitness or availability yet as far as the third ODI is concerned.

He did bowl in the nets at Lord's before the second ODI and is on path to recovery. But it remains to be seen if he will be included in the side for this decider ahead of Kaul or Umesh Yadav.

At Pallekele in August last year, Bhuvneshwar had scored a match-winning maiden half-century under Mahendra Singh Dhoni's company after India were reduced to 131 for seven in the 237-run chase. In South Africa too, Bhuvneshwar made vital contributions lower in the order.

His continued absence will mean that India have a long lower order, putting more responsibility on the top and middle order.

The latter is especially over-burdened with the gaping hole at No. 4. It is considered the most vital position for any successful ODI side, yet India are struggling to find a solution to their revolving door conundrum for some time now.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni was booed by Indian spectators for his slow knock at Lord's. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

With captain Kohli deciding to continue at his favoured No. 3, this series has marked the return of KL Rahul at number four since that Sri Lanka tour. Lord's was his first big test at that position, considering the good run of form he has been in lately but it came to nought, literally.

India have Dinesh Karthik and Shreyas Iyer on the bench. The former has been in fine nick recently, while the latter has two half-centuries in his first six ODIs. Iyer also gave a good account of himself in Port Elizabeth batting at No. 5.

Despite his slow knock at Lord's, it is nearly inconceivable that the team management will consider favouring Karthik ahead of Dhoni. Apparently, Dhoni was booed by Indian spectators at Lord's for his painstaking knock of 37 from 59 balls despite the asking rate going above the 10 runs per over mark.

It is to be noted that the previous ODI was only the third instance on this UK tour where Dhoni got a chance to bat in the middle, after T20 outings in Dublin and Cardiff. In a way, that lack of batting time showed in his incoherent innings.

While Dhoni has the backing of both Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, once again it underlines India's dependence on the top-order trio of Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.

In the last two seasons, the trio have scored nearly 60 percent of India's ODI runs and became a cornerstone to the team's repeated successes in this format.

For England meanwhile, not only is this series a chance to improve their record against India. But victory against arguably the toughest opposition they have faced recently will also give them a lot of confidence ahead of the World Cup which they host in a year's time.

With Joe Root back among the runs and the remaining batsmen negotiating wrist spin to a greater degree, their only concern is the patchy form of all-rounder Ben Stokes.

It is understood that he might still be feeling the impact of his recent hamstring injury and is not playing at full steam. However, he will continue to be a part of their set-up in what should be a thrilling finale to the limited-overs' leg of this long tour.

Teams:

England: Eoin Morgan (captain), Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (w/k), Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Mark Wood, James Vince.

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (w/k), Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shreyas Iyer, Siddarth Kaul, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

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