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For India to taste success in ICC Cricket World Cups

The look on Deepak Chahar’s face during the closing moments of the third ODI between India and South Africa, was a representation of an average cricket lover in India – A Missed Opportunity!

India had already lost the series and Chahar’s late order exploits in the dead rubber could only manage to salvage some pride in a disappointing India tour of South Africa. Winning and Losing is a part of sport, but the way in which they lost would hurt team India.

Barring the South Africa tour, India’s record in the bilateral events are excellent. But, when it comes to ICC events, India tend to struggle. It feels like Team India is that student who does brilliantly on mock exams and come the main exam (ICC events), falters under pressure. Since the 2013 Champions Trophy victory, India have not been able to win another title despite entering the tournament as favorites. The recently concluded T20 world cup is an example.

With limited resources and no big superstars, the way New Zealand turn up on ICC events and perform is a lesson for other big teams to emulate. The talent pool in India is enormous. So, the question is ‘when you are spoilt for choices, do you tend to overthink?’ Ahead of the T20 and the ODI World cups, India need to figure out the brand of cricket they want to play. A positive intent will help, but to accomplish the same, India need to iron out certain areas.

The Middle-order muddle

One of the main reason for India’s exit from the 2019 World Cup was due to the ineffectiveness of the Middle-order. India have relied heavily on their top-order to win games for them. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli have always done the bulk of the scoring. Ever since Yuvraj Singh left, India were not able to have a stable number 4. Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey were tried and lately India were settling in on KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer.

They were doing well, but the South African series saw Rahul opening and Iyer slotted below Rishab Pant. The middle-order is a specialist position and it needs stability. Rahul should have continued to play at Number 4 and India could have tried Ruturaj Gaikwad to open with Dhawan in the absence of Rohit. Pant with his high-risk ‘do or die’ approach can’t be your number 4. Intent and aggression are good, but there should be conviction in stroke play. Suryakumar Yadav should be given a consistent run.

Lack of quality All-rounders

The Indian team that won the World Cups in 1983, 2007(T20) and 2011 had high impact performances from versatile all-rounders. 1983 had brilliant performances from the likes of Mohinder Amarnath and Kapil Dev. The modern era had Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina who batted extremely well in the middle-order. Yuvraj, Raina and Sehwag could bowl some crucial overs and Yuvraj in particular was more than your average part-time spinner. The current Indian team lacks this flexibility which affects the team dynamics.

The Spin Conundrum

There was a time when the greatest ever spinners like Murali and Warne used to scratch their heads wondering ‘what to do’ against the Indian batters! The overdrawn statement of “Indians are best players of Spin” should be corrected as “Indians were”. There was a statistic which showed that in the last 40 odd T20Is, Indian batters averaged in the mid-20s and their strike rates were less than 125. From dominating quality spinners, India at present, is struggling to even rotate strike and that too, against average spinners. The recently concluded ODI series with South Africa is a prime example.

Indian Spin vs South African Spin (From 3 ODIs played in South Africa)
*Shamsi’s figures not included
BowlerOversRunsWicketsRuns per over
Markram (SA)167424.6
Maharaj (SA)2913334.5
Ashwin (IND)2012116.1
Chahal (IND)2914725.1

The figures above show how South Africa who were labelled as average against spin fared far better than India. India even allowed Markram to bowl the way he wanted to and gave him too much respect. Suryakumar Yadav who came in the 3rd ODI took 11 runs of Markram in an over (not included in the table) and showed how it’s done!

India used to have wonderful spinners at their disposal which helped them practise better to counter the spin threat. The major struggle is with the senior players who does not play enough domestic matches to fine tune their skills. Add to that, the majority of the spinners are now trying to contain rather than taking wickets. If India dominate spin like that used to, they will be a force to reckon with!

Trouble with Left-arm swing

Yes, we have a huge talent pool and we also have the IPL. But, it has not helped India find a good Left-arm fast bowler who can genuinely swing the bowl. India has had their fair share of troubles against left-arm swing early on in their innings. Sam Curran in England, Trent Boult in New Zealand, Mohammed Amir and recently Shaheen Afridi have all troubled India. The major reason being the lack of quality left-arm swing bowlers in the domestic circuit.

There was a time when India had the likes of Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Ashish Nehra who could genuinely swing the ball both ways. After their time, India tried options like Khaleel Ahmed, Barinder Sran, Jayadev Unadkat etc. but they could not impress the selectors. It could be argued that some of them were not given a consistent run. Natarajan and Arshdeep have impressed lately, but it remains to be seen how they shape up in the coming times.

Wickets in the Powerplay

While Natarajan and Arshdeep have impressed lately and a left-arm seamer is a good variety to have, India will be keen on having someone who has the wicket-taking ability with the new ball, particularly in ODIs.

Since the last world cup, India have picked up only 10 powerplay wickets at an average of 132 and economy rate of 5.7 runs per over. The stats show that India is one of the worst bowling side in the first 10 overs. Bowlers hunt as a pack and this is where India struggles. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was exceptional for India with the new ball and in the death overs. But he has not been the same ever since his injury. Mohammed Shami is an excellent test bowler, but he tends to go for runs in the death overs in white ball cricket. Deepak Chahar is similar to Kumar and if he can consistently perform, it will be good for team India.


If Dhawan is not considered for future plans based on age, Ishan Kishan can be nurtured for the role. He will be the Wicket-keeper and also offers the right-left opening combination. Rishab Pant could also be tried if he has the tenacity to open. Kohli and Rahul in the middle order offers stability. Rahul and Yadav can also be the free flowing player based on the situation.

The question is whether Jadeja will be comfortable for number 6. He has the potential and if it works out, India can play 2 fast bowling all-rounders in Thakur/Hardik and Chahar. This combination will give India 6 bowling options (4 seamers + 2 spinners) which will offer better balance when they travel. With Chahar and Bumrah, India should look for an out and out quick bowler or a left-arm seamer. The bowling combination can be altered depending of the conditions. Individuals might change, but this is a blueprint that could help team India in the long run.

The batting depth in the lower order will allow the middle order to be a bit more expressive. This will help the top order to play with intent and take the game to the opposition!

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Check out my detailed analysis on Cricket ‘Is the true essence of the game getting lost?” – Click here

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  • Gayathri

    Woww Prakash! That’s brilliant stuff. Even better than film reviews but personally I enjoy reading film reviews more mainly because I am not following cricket these days for the same reasons that you have pointed out. Whenever I watch, it leaves me disappointed and that feeling stays for days 😞 So to avoid that I stay away! Anyway you keep writing. Best wishes 🙏

  • Joyson

    Fully agree. Sometimes I kinda wonder with so much talent available why is India not able sort these issues out.
    Big problem is Kohli’s form. Earlier india was so dominant because of the top 3. Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli who used to just churn out runs. Now it’s mostly just Sharmaaking the big runs. To solve the others areas:
    1. I still believe Dhawan has more to offer and is a big ICC events player. If team management believes Dhawan is done with then they need to change now and start grooming Kishan for that role.
    2. Not sure how much Jadega can manage batting at 6. If Rohit, Kohli and Dhawan/Kishan are in form, this mix is ideal or we might still need to play Sreyas Iyer but need someone who can muscle the ball like Yuvi and Dhoni did in that position.
    3. I think Pandya is vital. He and Jadeja played really good knocks in Aus in the ODI series. Shardul’s bowling is just horrible. Cause the next world cup is in India he will be easily scored off.
    4. India have to play attacking cricket against spin or else middle overs are just going to be avg and they will not win.
    5. I forgot the name of the purple cap holder for this ipl. I think he should be in the team, really has a nack of picking wickets and might solve the middle over/death bowling issue. Now overly dependent on bumrah
    6. Would like to see Ravi Bishnoi. Chahal perhaps does not have any more tricks up his sleeve.

    • Prakash Thampi

      The balance will be crucial. 5 bowlers could work for most teams as they will have someone from their top/middle order who could bowl. India doesn’t have that nowadays. If one bowler has an off day, it could cost the team badly. Hardik should be played only if he is able to contribute with the ball as well, otherwise it affects the team balance. The team that I mentioned is a blueprint of what India could follow which will give them depth in both departments. For India to play attacking cricket, the depth is necessary which will allow the players to express themselves much better!

  • KarunaSankar KG

    Superb Prakash. Even though if somebody is not watching cricket and not updated on these days, this article is really a plus for them as it is nicely drafted by touching all aspects. Despite of all pros, I think internal politics also plays a vital role in Team India’s recent losses. Frequent absence of Rohit and Kohli creates some kind of insecurity among the junior players. Finally team cohesiveness is missing now a days which is very crucial for every team events. Let’s be optimistic on coming tournaments.

    • Prakash Thampi

      Thanks Karu. Politics could be there, but India needs to be more proactive in white ball format especially ICC tournaments where pressure is enormous! For that, they need to have a good team balance – there is talent, but it’s about how you utilize it better. Hope India goes all the way this time

    • Prakash Thampi

      As much as I like Sanju and want him to play for India, let’s be realistic here bro! He should be more consistent to get into the t20 squad and if he performs, there is an outside chance making it to the ODIs. Talent wise, he is a gun! But performances do matter

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