ICC World Cup: Dravid & Co have most boxes ticked after Australia series win
With Axar Patel's injury, scales are tilted in favour of Ravi Ashwin as deadline for final squad list looms and India team management face problem of plenty
Soon after India out-batted Australia in the first two games to wrap up the three-match ODI series on Sunday, 24 September, former England skipper Michael Vaughan’s post was a candid one. ‘’Any team which beats India will win the World Cup,’’ said Vaughan, so awestruck was he by India's batters.
Just ponder this: a team without Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma puts up a total of 399 after chasing down a competitive target with ease, centuries from the in-form Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer — not to speak of sparkling half centuries from Gill and Ruturaj Gaikwad, while Suryakumar Yadav demonstrated he could be the finisher at no. 6 that India has been looking for. KL Rahul, who stepped in as captain in the first two games, once again dispelled any doubts about his fitness with back-to-back fifties.
Granted, one would not find better batting conditions than Mohali and Indore, but to dominate an attack of that quality calls for a certain degree of class.
Did the batters, then, ring an alarm bell for the opposition for the upcoming World Cup at home? While comparing a bilateral series to the World Cup is like the proverbial chalk-and-cheese, it also fact that in familiar conditions and in a format which allows them time to build an innings, this batting line-up can be quite a handful for other teams.
The frown on head coach Rahul Dravid’s face ought to have eased by now. Prior to their departure for the Asia Cup in August, he was peppered with questions about the number four and five batting positions, the answer to which is now self-explanatory with Iyer and Rahul, respectively. There are a few ‘pleasant headaches’ after that, and it’s quite likely that the team management will take a call on a match-to-match basis during the World Cup campaign.
While it was heartening to see Iyer step in at no. 3 in place of Kohli with poise and reach his first international century in 11 months, Yadav showed he had cracked the code to shift his T20 form to one-dayers. His 50 off 49 balls and 72 off 37 may resemble trademark 'SKY' efforts, but those who watched the knocks know the amount of planning that went into them.
After three back-to-back ducks against the Aussies in ODIs earlier this year, SKY was understandably cagey. ‘’I got a lot of learning from my team management. They said, you just have to stretch your innings, take a little bit more time, try and bat a little deeper and see what happens,’’ he said, ahead of the second India-Australia match.
The approach certainly worked in the first match, when one saw him initially play into the V for singles, but the four sixes on the trot which he blasted off his Mumbai Indians teammate Cameron Green reminded one of his IPL and T20 prowess.
However, chances of Yadav being inducted into the playing eleven look remote unless India decides to play six batsmen, with Rahul doubling up as the wicketkeeper and Hardik Pandya takes up the third seamer’s role, and two seamers and as many spinners completing the line-up.
Having by-and-large ticked all the batting boxes, the biggest conundrum for the team management continues to be Ravi Ashwin. The 37-year-old made light of the pressure on him, making the most of the turn that Indore offered in the second half of the match to return with figures of 7-0-41-3, and should definitely feature in the scheme of things, particularly given the injury to fellow off-spinner Axar Patel.
The question is, who do we replace in the 15-member squad? One has to wait for three more days for an answer!