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World Cup 2019: Two forced changes that India

could make against Afghanistan

19.06.2019   Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

India's domination in the 2019 World Cup continued in fine fashion as the Men in Blue registered a comfortable 89-run victory against Pakistan.

Coming into the game, India had a 6-0 upper hand in terms of World Cup wins against Pakistan and it was no surprise that Virat Kohli's men outclassed Pakistan at the end of the game.

Rohit Sharma's masterful 140-run knock was the standout for India. In the end, India was too hot to handle for Pakistan in yet another World Cup encounter.

The only negative outcome for India in the match against Pakistan was the injury to India’s main bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was into his third over when he suffered a hamstring injury which has ruled him out of India’s next 3 matches. India already lost the services of opening batsman  Shikhar Dhawan for 3 weeks with a thumb injury. Dhawan’s replacement Vijay Shankar became the first Indian bowler to take a wicket off the first ball in a World Cup match.

Mohammed Shami for Bhuvneshwar Kumar

The Indians have a perfect replacement for Bhuvi in the form of Mohammed Shami.  Shami is in fine wicket-taking form of late and with his inclusion in the playing XI, Kumar will not be missed as a bowler. Shami would be a direct swap for the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Shami is equally experienced and effective with the new ball and with the old ball in the middle overs and at the death. Amongst a current lot of Indian bowlers, Shami is the highest wicket-taker for India in World Cups with 17 wickets.


The necessity for effecting the second change

In the absence of Bhuvi, India’s real problem lies in the composition of the lower-order batting. At #8, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been an effective batsman, though not a flamboyant all-rounder like Hardik Pandya. Bhuvi is quite capable of playing to the situation and hanging around with a specialist batsman in case of a batting collapse.

The same thing cannot be said of Mohammed Shami. Shami always looks to send every ball into the orbit irrespective of the match situation. In the absence of Kumar, India’s tail starts at  No 8.

The lack of firepower in the late order would be exposed while chasing. So far India has been lucky to bat first and pile up runs against Australia and Pakistan. The below-par target and Rohit Sharma’s century ensured that the late order was never exposed against South Africa.

In the upcoming matches, conditions might warrant Kohli to opt to chase. In such a scenario, India might find the going difficult if the top order fails to deliver. The middle-order consisting of MS Dhoni, Vijay Shankar, and Kedar Jadhav haven’t had enough time in the middle.

As warranted by the game situation, Hardik Pandya has programmed himself into an attacking mode in the earlier matches. It remains to be seen whether he can sustain his big hitting for a longer duration of time in a tough run chase. The brittle nature of the Indian middle-order necessitates a batting backup as well in the absence of Bhuvneswar Kumar.

Ravindra Jadeja in place of one of the wrist spinners

Without upsetting the bowling strength much, the late-order can be strengthened by the inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja in place of one of the wrist-spinners. The only other option to accommodate Jadeja is to leave out  Kedar Jadhav. However, that would not serve the purpose and would weaken the batting substantially. Besides, too many bowling options would be too confusing for the captain to deploy. Playing 3 spinners against 3 Asian teams would defy logic.

The presence of Jadeja at No 8 at the cost of one of the wrist-spinners would prompt the Indian top order to go on an all-out attack from the word go. Jadeja is an economical bowler and a better batsman than Vijay Shankar at the death.  He is a left-hander who can be sent up the order to upset the rhythm of the bowlers. In the present squad, after Shami, Jadeja is the second highest wicket-taker for India in World Cups.

What's more, by including Jadeja in the playing XI, India will have the luxury of fielding 3 all-rounders of a different calibre. The absence of one wrist-spinner might affect India’s wicket-taking abilities in the middle overs. But that could be overcome to a certain extent by the presence of Mohammed Shami.

The forced inclusion of Vijay Shankar has given an additional bowling option for India. Shankar can share the bowling with Hardik Pandya to complete the fifth bowler’s quota.

To sum up, by bringing Jadeja into the playing XI, the team management can have all bases covered in batting, bowling and fielding. But the biggest question would be which wrist-spinner should leave way for Jadeja?