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India vs West Indies: The ODI World Cup Done, Time For India to Now Focus on T20Is

Karthik Lakshmanan |August 1, 2019, 7:36 PM IST
India vs West Indies: The ODI World Cup Done, Time For India to Now Focus on T20Is

The dream of winning the World Cup 2019 might not have come true, but India still have plenty to look forward to in the coming years with three major ICC trophies up for grabs.

Two of those are the back-to-back T20 World Cups in 2020 and 2021, with the other being the World Test Championship. At least for the time being, the one-day format is set to take a back-seat.

Before leaving to West Indies, Virat Kohli said the line up of such trophies ensured 'players always had something to play for, look forward to'. With two T20 World Cups in the next two years, India are playing an unprecedented number of matches in the format over the next one year; at least 20 T20Is from now till next IPL, with 12 of those in 2019 alone.

The Indian captain was in particular looking forward to developing a team in one specific format - the T20s.

"I am particularly excited about the T20s because of the new players coming in," Kohli said.

But do India really have a new team? Yes in the bowling, no in the batting.

File photo of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Image: Twitter (Image: Twitter)

A glance at the Indian squad for the West Indies T20Is shows that all the issues they have in their ODI batting remain intact in the T20 squad too. In short, they are heavily dependent on the top three - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. Each of them can win a game themselves, but the lack of power in the middle order apart from Rishabh Pant is an issue. Particularly in the absence of Hardik Pandya.

Apart from the top three and Rishabh Pant, the other batsmen are KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey with Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja as the all-rounders. It makes them a team with plenty of batsmen who can bat in the top order, but little power in the middle apart from Pant. India will now have to answer the boring question of "who will bat at No. 4" in the T20 format too!

Rahul has been in stunning form for Kings XI Punjab over the last two years. In 2018, he was their aggressor, smashing the bowlers around the park. In 2019, he was an accumulator, steadying the ship with controlled batting. In both the seasons, though, his success came as an opener. It's unlikely that he will get a chance as an opener with Dhawan around. It's unlikely that he can be the power-hitter in the middle order.

The cases of Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey are similar. Both had success in IPL 2019, Iyer more than Pandey. Iyer led from the front for Delhi, keeping an inexperienced and shaky batting line up together in the middle overs. He scored 463 runs, but yet again, all his success came from No. 3. Even then, his strike-rate was below 120. He's definitely not getting that position with Kohli around, which means he'll have to adapt to the middle order role.

Pandey too struck form in the latter stages for Sunrisers Hyderabad, with 344 runs from 11 innings after a poor start to the tournament. But his success too came after he was given a go at No. 3 - a position not vacant with the Indian side. He had a forgettable start in the middle order, and was even dropped for a few matches before he was promoted to the top order.

Krunal

Krunal has played quick cameos in the middle/lower order for Mumbai Indians and occasionally for India in his brief stint too, but the onus of adding dynamism to the unit is on Pant's shoulders. India don't have Hardik, and quite questionably, have dropped Dinesh Karthik from T20Is too. MS Dhoni's future is unclear - although it wasn't like he was providing quick finishes anyway. All this means it's all on Pant to do the job in the finishing stages.

India will need all the strength they can get in the batting, especially against a side like West Indies that has big hitters all through the line up. At the moment, at least on paper, India don't have such a dynamic side unless the top three fires.

But Kohli does have some fresh faces in the bowling, especially in Navdeep Saini and Rahul Chahar. Saini's pace and Rahul's variations - including running across the umpire while bowling over the stumps! - will add different dimensions to the attack. Deepak Chahar and Khaleel Ahmed, who have had very good IPL seasons, also add depth to the Indian pace bowling stocks while Bhuvneshwar Kumar leads the pack with his experience in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah.

The options are plenty in the bowling, but few in lower order hitting. It's that area that India will have to work on in the next two years - to produce middle-order batsmen with hitting abilities like Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni and Raina had in their prime.

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