Continuous experiments land India in trouble | Crickit

Continuous experiments land India in trouble

By, Mumbai
Jul 29, 2023 11:48 PM IST

India changed their batting order for the second match running with mainstays Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli sitting out

India lost as many as five wickets chasing 115 in the first One-Day International (ODI) against West Indies at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados. In the second ODI, too, the visitors lost half their side cheaply and were in serious trouble at 113/5 after being asked to bat first. A common link between both games was that neither Rohit Sharma nor Virat Kohli’s names featured in the 10 wickets that fell.

India's Ravindra Jadeja  leaves the field after he was caught by West Indies' Yannic Cariah(AP)
India's Ravindra Jadeja  leaves the field after he was caught by West Indies' Yannic Cariah(AP)

Hardik Pandya stood in as captain for Sharma in the second ODI in Bridgetown on Saturday as India continued to mix things up. Kohli was the other player missing from the playing XI, with Sanju Samson and Axar Patel being brought in.

“It’s just that a few questions have to be answered,” said Pandya at the toss. “Rohit and Virat have been playing constant cricket, so they thought they would rest in this game and be fresh for the third ODI. So yeah, they’re just resting and making sure that opportunities are given to the other guys.”

India received an impressive opening stand in the second ODI before things went downhill. Ishan Kishan, after registering scores of 52 in the second Test and first ODI, notched up his third successive half-century. Shubman Gill, meanwhile, was back at the top of the order and scored a 49-ball 34.

Having enjoyed a 90-run opening partnership, India seemed on course for a solid total but they ended up losing five wickets for 23 runs from there on. Gill and Kishan fell in quick succession before Patel was promoted to No. 4 in another surprise move. But the left-hander was sent packing for one run, with Pandya and Samson following him back to the pavilion soon after.

Ravindra Jadeja and Suryakumar Yadav put on a much-needed 33-run stand for the sixth wicket but they were then dismissed in a span of five deliveries, leaving India tottering at 148/7 after 32.1 overs. Five of these seven wickets saw batters getting caught in the outfield.

At that specific point in the three-match series, India had lost 12 wickets for 266 runs. Even if they go on to win the series, against a team that has missed out on qualifying for the upcoming ODI World Cup, it was hardly a promising position to be in.

Including the ongoing series, and if they make it to the Asia Cup final, India have 12 ODIs ahead of the World Cup. But as things stand, there seems to be a familiar air of confusion and a lot of work left to do.

Before the start of the ODI series against West Indies, regular skipper Sharma had spoken about how they want to prepare for the World Cup in the months leading into it.

“If we feel a certain player could be a part of our World Cup squad, we will try and give him a chance in this series,” he had said. “We need to keep one thing in mind that the ones who are playing regularly could also get injured, so we need to get the other guys ready. We need to focus on the entire squad, because injuries can happen at any time.”

He added: “Even before last year’s T20 World Cup, we had given chances to the newer players to see how they play their roles in the team. We’ll look to do the same this time as well and make a decision after the 10-12 ODIs that we have before the World Cup.”

While Sharma’s point that injuries can happen at any time and having bench strength is important makes sense, it’s also worth remembering that India didn’t really have a successful campaign at the 2022 T20 World Cup he’s referring to. In fact, they even struggled to zero in on their No.4 batter before the last ODI World Cup which also saw them lose in the semi-finals.

With premier pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj missing the series, and with not much time left for the World Cup, would it have been more prudent for India to aim for stability in at least their batting order? Don’t certainties like Sharma and Kohli, who have been rested for the T20I series against West Indies, need game-time in their positions too? Will India be able to become a well-oiled machine in time for the World Cup?

Pandya was right when he said at the toss that some questions need to be answered. Perhaps another question can be added to the list: Till when can India afford to keep chopping and changing this way to get all the answers they need?

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