T20 World Cup: 4 worries for India with semi-final spot almost secured
From KL Rahul at the top to their end-overs issues with the ball.. India have holes to plug in their game.
Despite being a winning juggernaut either side of a blip at the Asia Cup 2022, India carried a wave of gloom about them from the outside into the T20 World Cup in Australia. As India's bowling attack looked shallow in absence of Jasprit Bumrah, hardly anyone gave them a chance to reclaim the coveted crown.
Two games in, however, they stand at the top of the Group 2 points table for the Super 12s round, defeating Pakistan in a thriller at MCG before crushing the Netherlands at SCG. They are now two wins shy of securing a semifinal berth from this group, with a game looming versus South Africa but also ones versus Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
The victory over Pakistan has eased up India's task of making the knock-outs significantly. But that doesn't mean it's all hunky dory for them at the moment, with multiple issues under the scanner, threatening to plague the side when they do eventually play out that semifinal.
Wary of them holding their aces come the business end of the competition, India will have to iron out those flaws over the next three group stage encounters. Here are four of their persisting worries despite them standing at the top of the standings with consecutive victories under the bag.
India's concerns at T20 World Cup
KL Rahul's persistent failures
Despite being a strong player of pace and bounce, KL Rahul has looked extremely nervy and anxious facing the new ball in India's first two matches. The right-hander was dismissed for 4 off 8 versus Pakistan and was out for 9 off 12 against the Netherlands.
Problem for Rahul isn't so much the movement at the top but the self-imposed shackles as he continues to allow the bowler to dictate terms to him. That needs to change with some positive intent against South Africa at Perth, perhaps India's most challenging clash of the tournament.
Rohit Sharma's iffy transition into a top-order aggressor
It's admirable for skipper Rohit Sharma to be the flagbearer of the aggressive approach that coach Rahul Dravid has instilled into India's system ever since his arrival last year. But it has been evident for those watching closely that the approach doesn't quite suit the player who is entering the back half of his thirties.
Rohit has tried his best to warm up to the role, going at SR of 143.18 in the Dravid era. But his average for these 28 matches stands at a low-key 29.07. Fear with him is that Rohit is at a stage of his career where he no longer has that split second extra up his sleeves to face fast-bowling with the new-ball, especially when he has to chance his arms early.
Why, despite an evident effort to hit big from the word go, it took him a while to break free versus the Netherlands. It was a half-century marked by what Rohit couldn't do, not by what he did. That, safe to say, is India's biggest worry approaching the back half of their campaign in Australia.
Axar Patel at No.6? More nah than yeah
Presence of Axar Patel at No.6, playing a crucial role with the bat as the side's premier spin allrounder, doesn't inspire much confidence in Australian conditions where steep bounce makes injured Ravindra Jadeja a huge miss in this role.
With Jadeja, India could lengthen their batting by sending him up at No.4 or 5 as a tactical plug. But Axar's powerhitting game doesn't quite give them that luxury.
In the match versus Pakistan, Dravid sent Axar up at No.5 to take on their two spinners who turn the ball into the left-hander. A run-out rained on that plan, before the brilliance of Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav ensured he didn't have to bat against the Netherlands.
Axar needs a knock under his belt quickly. If possible, against the South Africans. The last thing India would want is the left-hander having to walk into a knock-out in a critical situation feeling underconfident, with hardly any substantial hit under his belt.
With Bumrah not around, and Harshal Patel not inspiring much trust on true surfaces Down Under, the death-bowling pressure lies on the shoulder of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammad Shami.
The trio hasn't really been tested against set batters in the end-overs phase for now, which poses an issue heading into the South African game.
Arshdeep seems to bank on his yorker a little too much and can be one-dimensional, at times. He has been dispatched by tailenders Shaheen Afridi and Paul Van Meekeran in his respective final overs of the tournament thus far, ruining his figures after encouraging starts with the new ball.
Bhuvneshwar has the smarts and the range but since his yorker accuracy has been on the wane, he can be predictable with the batters hanging back to gauge his slower balls and line him up on flat batting surfaces.