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ICC World Cup 2019 | Can Team India Topple 300-Run Barrier Regularly?

Karthik Lakshmanan | Updated: May 16, 2019, 8:35 AM IST
ICC World Cup 2019 | Can Team India Topple 300-Run Barrier Regularly?

Virat Kohli batting against Australia (Getty Images)

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373, 361, 358, 359

In case you're wondering what these numbers are, these are the last four ODI innings scores in England. Pakistan have tried their best, but the monstrous and endless English line-up has made light work of the challenge.

More importantly, this is likely to be the trend for the ICC World Cup 2019 too. Despite perceptions among a few, England is not the place where the ball swings to make life difficult for batsmen. The white ball scenario in England has been quite different for a number of years now, making the country a batting paradise.

Since the last World Cup, there have been 40 scores of above 300 in 56 matches in England, easily the most in a country in the period. Over the last two years, England have scored 300+ 17 times in 45 matches, the most among all teams.

Unless things get drastically different over the next two months, it's clear that the team that has to win the World Cup has to match this big-hitting ability of England.

Do India have the game to score 300s?

In short, yes, they do, if two of their top three fire.

India have scored more than 300 13 times in the last two years, although they've played 14 ODIs more than England in the period. The next in the list is New Zealand, who have nine 300+ scores in 36 ODIs.

Unlike England, though, India is not a side that has hitters through the line up. The batting relies heavily on the top three - Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Of the 13 times India have scored more than 300, seven have come after century opening stands, and one after an opening stand of 71.

Shikhar Dhawan in action Shikhar Dhawan plays a shot during his innings of 92. (ICC)

In the remaining five matches, Kohli has scored centuries in four games, making up for the early loss of an opener.

With Ambati Rayudu out of the squad, there is no Indian batsman beyond the top three who has made a century in the last two years.

How did India fare in their last trip to England?

The lack of depth in batting came to the fore the last time India traveled to England, last year. With a batting line-up very similar to the one that's traveling for the World Cup - Suresh Raina instead of Kedar Jadhav the only change - India batted below their potential, losing the three-match series 1-2.

India's scores in England last year were:

269/2 in 40.1 overs chasing.
236 all out in 50 overs chasing 323.
256/8 in 50 overs batting first.

Apart from the first ODI, where Rohit scored 137 and Kohli 75, India felt the absence of firepower down the order. In the two matches, India went from 140/3 in 27 overs to 236 all out, and 156/4 in 31 overs to 256/8 after Kohli was dismissed. It forced MS Dhoni to play his typical waiting game, resulting in two slow knocks.

Hardik Pandya in action Hardik Pandya bowls during T20 in Auckland (Image: AP)

India struggled with their team balance through that series, in the absence of Jadhav. Jasprit Bumrah was injured, and Hardik Pandya was the fifth bowler with no one other than Raina to chip in. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was recovering from an injury too, which even forced Umesh Yadav to bat at No. 8!

How is the current Indian team different?

The most important difference is that India have their best bowling attack back, with plenty of other options to chip in with overs. India had the likes of Siddarth Kaul and Umesh in that series. Now they've got Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar, all fit. If Vijay Shankar and Jadhav feature in the XI, India have the luxury of seven bowling options.

The batting will welcome the big-hitting forms of Dhoni and Pandya, but it's still very much dependent on the top three.

A dilemma as crucial as the No. 4 conundrum

All the talk around the India squad is around the No. 4 position. Will it be Vijay? Or will it be KL Rahul? Or will India split the top three, fit Rahul at 3 and Kohli at 4?

While these are crucial questions, there is an equally crucial dilemma in the bowling department too.

Bhuvneshwar or Shami? Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, or only one of the two?

Shami has been in terrific form since his return to the ODI set up, but playing him could mean compromising on batting depth. India's best bowling combination involves playing Kuldeep and Chahal together, choking teams in middle overs even in good batting conditions. When the two have played together, India have won 19 of their 28 matches.

Yuzvendra Chahal (left) and Kuldeep Yadav Yuzvendra Chahal (left) and Kuldeep Yadav

The combination becomes even more deadly in matches which feature Bumrah. When the three have played together, India have won 14 of 19 matches. With Bumrah there to apply the choke on either side of the spinners' spells, batsmen have hardly got a bowler to target. Only once has the opposition scored more than 300. The average score of oppositions when India have played Bumrah, Chahal and Kuldeep together is merely 215. Why score 300s when you can restrict the opposition to 200s?

The flip side of the three playing together is the length of the tail. Fit in Shami as well, and the team becomes similar to the one that toured England last year.

It's thus imperative that Bhuvneshwar, who gives a decent batting option at No. 8, ensures Shami won't be missed with the ball. If the conditions do allow India to play three spinners, they could also fit in Ravindra Jadeja.

Toss factor

In the last 2 years, India have largely been a chasing side, winning 26 of their 35 matches while fielding first. They've batted first in 24 matches, winning 15 of those.

Expect more of win the toss and field first in the World Cup.
First Published: May 15, 2019, 6:13 PM IST
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RankTeamPointsRating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
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