India have emerged from yet another multi-nation tournament having failed to rise to the occasion in tough matches and with plenty of unanswered questions.
If Virat Kohli finally breaks the curse of the century with his 71st is good news for all cricket fans, it also raises some questions that should be put into perspective.
How much importance will you give to a hundred who arrived in a dead rubber when there was absolutely no pressure?
Afghanistan’s bowling offense has shown a lot of potential in this tournament, but playing back-to-back matches in this searing heat, how should they be judged?
After losing a close and emotionally draining game less than 24 hours ago, were Afghanistan physically and mentally ready for another grueling game?
The first three and its impending problems?
And that brings us to the most fundamental question? Does this (Rohit, KL Rahul and Kohli), to be India’s first three entering the T20 World Cup?
Yes, it seems so if you see the kind of support Rohit and Kohli have shown for a pressured Rahul, whose “wicket-first preservation” approach in Powerplay overs has most often put the India in trouble.
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“We have to keep him in a good headspace because we know what he can do,” Kohli said when interacting with Rohit on bcci.tv.
We could assess that the two seniors want Rahul to settle down with six more international matches (against Australia and South Africa) and two warm-ups before the start of the T20 World Cup?
So isn’t the similarity (three right-handers) that seemed to have hurt India in the 2021 edition coming back to haunt them?
Undoubtedly, if anyone in the top three misses the playing XI, it will be Rahul, as Rohit and Kohli have shown they can switch gears effectively.
(ANI Photo/Twitter BCCI)
There is a school of thought that Surya Kumar Yadav would be promoted to a drop hitter, but the clearer picture may only emerge once they play the home series against Australia in two weeks.
Rahul is an extremely talented striker with every shot in the book – both orthodox and unorthodox, but at least in the Asian Cup he hasn’t shown any distinctive change in his approach. He only attacked after he calmed down.
Kohli in his conversation with Rohit indicated that he would return to his “old pattern” of finding gaps and hitting more limits than trying to hit sixes.
“If I can take 10 to 15 balls to set up then I can speed up,” Kohli told his skipper.
The problem is that in 50 on cricket, 15 balls of calm period is not a big problem, but as soon as it is a match of 120 deliveries each, this quantity of balls becomes invaluable.
We saw it in Pakistan’s second game where Kohli got 60 out of 44 balls.
Regarding the middle order, the tournament did not provide a definitive answer if Rishabh Pants is more fitting than the team’s oldest player, Dinesh Karthik, who was slated for a specific 15-ball role at the end of innings.
As for Pant, the fluid bat swing we’re used to seeing in Test matches is conspicuous by its absence in this format.
Karthik played in three of five games, but failed to bat 10 cumulative balls in the tournament.
So you can’t really judge who will finally arrive in the playing eleven if not the two?
But can Coach Dravid be a bit more flexible and not just set a role for Karthik – like 10 balls at the end or something? Because in Pant’s case he was sometimes used as a float – before Hardik Pandya or after him depending on the game situation. Both without success.
For the mid-level reserve hitter, the all-rounder Deepak Hooda remains the favorite, but Sanju Samson should be discarded at his peril.
The absence of Ravindra Jadeja after knee surgery (he was reportedly injured during the team bonding activity) will hurt India the most.
While Axar Patel is a very sincere cricketer but when it comes to giving batting flexibility like Jadeja coming in at No 4 against Pakistan in the first match it will be beyond the tape passerby of the lanky boy from Gujarat. He’s a pretty capable hitter but definitely not as good as Jadeja.
The Indian team is also very dependent as was evident when Ravi Bishnoi, despite having a great game against Pakistan, was benched in the following game. In Australia, where an additional point guard will be required, Bishnoi may well miss the team’s first bus.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave up 19 points in the 19th against Pakistan but was given the same duty again against Sri Lanka and he faltered again.
While a five wicket carry against Afghanistan is fine, but as Gautam Gambhir succinctly put it in a commentary, as a senior bowler, Bhuvneshwar will have to supply the wickets with both a new and an old ball without being one-dimensional.
It would have been interesting to see if Arshdeep could have done a better job with the 19th in one of the games as he had plenty of penultimate overs for the Punjab Kings.
But with Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel ready to get fit, Arshdeep will struggle to get a first glimpse of the XI while Avesh Khan is unlikely to even find a place in the last 15 if his form is any indication.
Avesh didn’t show much cricketing intelligence in the short version and as former manager Ravi Shastri said, Mohammed Shami shouldn’t have been completely gutted from this format.
As India travel to Australia, what seems worrying is that there is a repeat of 2019 when until the loss to New Zealand in the semi-finals, the Indian team did not couldn’t find a suitable number 4.
Here, the first three do not look convincing (you have to rule out the Afghanistan game) and a middle-order slot and a slot still need to be fixed.
There are questions and the sooner the better if Dravid can find the answers.
India (probably 15 and 5 standbys):
Specialty Beaters (4): Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav,
Versatile/intermediate order (2): Hardik Pandya, Deepak Hooda
CM/finisher (2): Rishabh pants, Dinesh Karthik,
Spinners (2): Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel
Pacers (5): Jasprit Bumrah (subject to fitness), Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh.
Likely standby: Sanju Samson, Avesh Khan, Ravi Bishnoi, Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Chahar.