posted on 2019-07-09 01:41:56
posted by Tarkesh Jha
Image Credits: The Indian Express
India's often inept ability to close down to constant playing XI might be a cause of bilateral series', but not in the ongoing World Cup. This is because, despite the changing personnel, they have managed to draw an outline of what they expect from every player who takes the field on that particular day.
Accordingly, the management has strengthened the bench players to a level where they seamlessly adapt themselves to any given situation without much fuss. It also speaks volumes about the team’s tendency to be flexible enough - playing according to situations and conditions.
India’s loss against England earlier highlighted a couple of issues that the Men in Blue would want to ponder over ahead of their game against the Kiwis. Firstly, the formula to play the two wrist-spinners in each game might be a luxury, but not a necessity always. For all their successes together, there are always alternatives that the captain can have a look at - to add some stability and cushion down in the batting order.
Thus, Ravindra Jadeja’s case is an interesting one. Despite not having featured in the playing XI until the final game of the league stage, the all-rounder always made his presence felt with his tremendous fielding skills. When given a chance against Sri Lanka, he didn’t disappoint either as his first spell resulted in him giving conceding only 22 runs off eight overs, with a wicket to his name as well. The last two overs of his quota might have resulted in 18 runs, but it can be argued that if Kohli would have allowed him to bowl ten on a trot, then Jadeja could have plugged the late splurge of runs. In addition to that economical and effective spell, Jadeja was lightning quick in the point region and saved a useful couple of boundaries initially.
What Jadeja offers ahead of the two wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav is a credible batting option till number 8, a probably more economical bowling option and an absolutely sublime fielding alternative throughout the course of fifty overs. His wicket-taking ability might not be as great as that of the leggies, but he sure can scalp a couple of them by keeping the line and lengths tight and by extracting some turn off the dryness of the pitch.
Kuldeep hasn’t been in the best of forms recently. His lack of pace whilst bowling has often rendered his impact to be negligible and insipid in the edition, barring a couple of good moments in the tournament so far. Chahal, on the other hand, has varied his pace quite well, claiming 11 wickets albeit at a higher economy rate but has comparatively looked more effective than his counterpart.
Then again, New Zealand’s inability to play well against the leg-spinning combination of Chahal and Kuldeep might swing chances in their favor ahead of Jadeja. However, a more all-round option ahead of a generally out-of-sorts player should be the way ahead for this game.
The middle order’s muddle too presents some interesting questions. Though, Virat Kohli might have cheekily remarked that he could be pretty lethal as a sixth bowler, there are nil possibilities of that happening to start off with. India has taken the punt by going in with only five bowling options in the last couple of games. Hardik Pandya’s growing reliability with the ball has allowed them to do so.
Kedar Jadhav has been an exceptional player who made the best use of his opportunities in the past few years but his general form has been a cause of concern ever since the IPL and the lack of a swashbuckling option in the lower-middle order further weakens his case to make it into the XI solely as a batsman.
Dinesh Karthik might not have set the stage alight against Bangladesh, but his innate ability to assess and then exploit on any possible run-scoring opportunity in the final ten overs could provide India a more positive approach to conclude their innings. He is flexible with his batting style, can rotate the strike generally well and act as a good foil around that middle order. Karthik appears to be instinctively more comfortable against pace bowling than Jadhav, and his striking ability tends to be better than Kedar too, though the numbers might mislead to suggest otherwise.
Until some unexpected influence takes place externally, DK would continue to be a part of the XI and rightly so too.
The second pacer conundrum is quite tricky as well. Conditions are expected to be overcast as there are 50% chances of precipitation and showers are expected in Manchester tomorrow. The general consensus in such a scenario would be to go in with all three pacers. However, New Zealand is not exactly a team that would stumble instantly against pace as such. Despite Mohammed Shami’s insane wicket-taking ability, his tendency to leak runs in the back end of his spell continues to be a huge concern. To save those extra 20-30 runs is of utmost necessity in knockout games, as India has already experienced once in the semifinal loss against the Aussies in 2015.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar might not have struck major blows with the new ball but he continues to be incredibly reliable with the old one.
Also, keeping the last game aside, Kumar has actually been quite good overall in this tournament. One can bank on him to go full throttle with the swing and pace initially, and even if he doesn’t churn out a wicket there, there is always a chance of him plugging the flow of runs in the final few overs. With Jadeja in the side, Bhuvneshwar comes in to bat at number nine, which is an excellent batting depth to possess. Otherwise, if the former doesn’t play, then having Kumar in the team is a compulsion because a team can’t have a lopsided batting order with the tail starting off at number eight, especially in such a crucial semifinal encounter.
Mayank Agarwal is someone who might have been on the fringes of being selected as an opener (with KL Rahul at 4), but Rahul’s century in the last game has rested any school of thought, edging for Agarwal’s inclusion in the playing XI.
So, after having analyzed most of the notable elements in this topic, here is my ideal playing XI for India for the semis:
Team: Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal