India’s World Cup preparations got off to the worst possible start, with their batting and bowling falling well short of expectations in their warm-up match against New Zealand on Saturday.
Batting first in overcast conditions at The Oval, Virat Kohli’s team had no answers to Trent Boult’s swing as the much vaunted Indian batting line-up was reduced to 91-7 before a fighting fifty from Ravindra Jadeja added some respectability to the total.
The Kiwis had no trouble chasing down the target with only Jasprit Bumrah making an impact in his four overs, giving away two runs, while the rest of the attack was handled expertly. Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal made hardly any impact, adding to India’s misery.
However, it was the capitulation against the moving ball that is of greater concern as this is not the first time it has happened this year.
DE JA VU
In the five-match ODI series in New Zealand earlier in the year, India were given a lesson for the ages in the fourth ODI – having already taken a 3-0 lead in the series – as they were shot out for 92 on a seaming pitch with Boult leading the way then again with five wickets.
In the fifth and final match of that series, India were once again staring down the barrel at 18-4 before a superb fightback from Ambati Rayudu and Vijay Shankar put them right back in the contest by taking the total to an eventually match-winning 252.
What those two matches showed was that no matter how good a form the Indian batting line-up is in, they can fold like a pack of cards if there is some help for the seamers.
Pitch today nothing like you would find in the main games. Not as much work has gone into it. So take India’s batting performance with a pinch of salt.#ICCWC2019— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) May 25, 2019
The main reason for India’s troubles against the moving ball in ODIs is the absence of an established middle order. With the World Cup just days away, India are still sorting out their middle order combination with no clarity over the No4 position. The top three of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are worth their weight in gold but against the swinging ball, the openers especially are sitting ducks.
Only captain Kohli and keeper MS Dhoni seem to have the game to bat out a majority of the overs and put up a competitive score. Otherwise, it is left to the likes of Hardik Pandya, or Jadeja as was the case on Saturday, to put some runs on the board.
BUMRAH OR BUST?
Another concern is the over-reliance on Jasprit Bumrah with the ball. New Zealand were content to play out the four overs of Bumrah and go after the rest of the attack, with Mohammed Shami looking the second most impressive bowler. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the wrist spinners simply don’t inspire any confidence at the moment and that leaves a gaping hole of at least 20 overs which India need to suddenly fill.
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