One shudders to think what could happen if India lose both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli early with such a brittle middle order to follow, says Harish Kotian.
IMAGE: West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach celebrates dismissing Vijay Shankar. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
India continued their unbeaten run in the World Cup and inched closer to the semis following a thumping win against West Indies on Thursday.
Despite the convincing win, India have a lot of question marks hanging over them as they go into the business end of the tournament.
The batsmen failed to live up to expectations against the West Indies, like the previous game against Afghanistan, and it was only because of the bowlers that India emerged triumphant in both the games, especially against the latter when they escaped with a narrow 11-run win.
Shikhar Dhawan’s injury was a big blow for India, but K L Rahul settled in quite well after being drafted in as opener.
But Rahul has been guilty of not converting his starts, as was seen in the last three innings he has opened, with scores of 57, 30 and 48.
And not surprisingly he revealed after the West Indies game that he got an earful from Captain Virat Kohli for throwing his wicket away in the Afghanistan game, attempting the reverse sweep.
With Rohit again perishing early against West Indies, the onus was on Rahul to carry on and play a big innings, but yet again he failed to make most of the start before being bowled by Jason Holder for 48.
With the Indian middle order performing the way it is, it is paramount that one of the top 3 of the Indian batting line-up, including Kohli, plays till the end.
Kohli has shouldered the responsibility quite well with the bat, hitting half-centuries in his last four innings.
Against West Indies he held the innings together with a fluent 82 from 72 balls before Mahendra Singh Dhoni (56) and Hardik Pandya (48) scored some quick runs to take the team to safety.
Vijay Shankar has failed to convince at No 4 in the three innings he has played so far and it won’t be too long before India bring in either the experienced Dinesh Karthik or take a gamble with the exciting Rishabh Pant.
With all-rounder Shankar also not playing a role with the ball in the last two games, it would make sense for India to include a specialist batsman at the crucial No 4 spot.
IMAGE: Virat Kohli, right, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters
With Dhoni struggling to get the big hits consistently at the end, he could be pushed to No 4 to allow him time to get his eye in the middle order, with the likes of Karthik/Pant, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya given the responsibility of scoring quick runs at the end.
The problem with Dhoni is that he struggles on pitches which offer a bit to the bowlers or a bit slower in nature and hence he could be more suited for No 4 where his strike rate wouldn’t come into the focus much.
Dhoni’s approach in the Afghanistan came in from criticism from even Sachin Tendulkar and he must thank the West Indies for helping him turn things around.
Dhoni should have been dismissed stumped for 8, but his opposite number Shai Hope missed an easy opportunity against Fabian Allen and he made most of that opportunity.
Also, the West Indies fast bowlers were guilty of bowling too short to Dhoni, who was able to break free at the end, hitting two sixes and a four in the final over bowled by Oshane Thomas to get his strike rate back in order after a difficult start.
India’s template with the bat has been quite simple in the World Cup — bat watchfully and not give too many wickets at the start and build the innings in the middle before going on all out attack at the end.
But one shudders to think what could happen if India lose both Rohit and Kohli early with such a brittle middle order to follow?
India take on England next, who would be desperate to get back to winning ways and as such India need to be wary of not giving even an inch.