World Cup 2019: India's middle-order conundrum in focus ahead of semifinals

India would hope to shore up the middle-order, which hasn’t exactly kicked on from the dream starts that the top three have provided in World Cup 2019.

India has progressed thanks to the colossal individual performances of Rohit Sharma (544 runs), Kohli (408), Mohammed Shami (14 wickets) and Jasprit Bumrah (14).   -  getty images

Virat Kohli’s men did what they were expected to do as a first step in the World Cup – qualify for the semifinal. Given the squad's pedigree, a last-four berth was the most basic requirement and the Men in Blue seized that with aplomb barring a solitary loss to England.

The remaining yards, though, would be the most difficult. Every joust during the next fortnight under English skies finally reflecting summer’s warmth, will be invested with a certain value.

Even the last league match against Sri Lanka at Headingley here on Saturday, will have its consequences in terms of influencing the playing eleven for the semifinal and hopefully the summit clash at Lord’s on July 14.

Top order, bowlers leaves a mark

Briefly on Tuesday, Bumrah left the turf at Birmingham’s Edgbaston and there was a fear that incase he had a niggle, India would be a bowler-short.   -  getty images

 

India has progressed thanks to the colossal individual performances of Rohit Sharma (544 runs), Kohli (408), Mohammed Shami (14 wickets) and Jasprit Bumrah (14). Equally, the seemingly smaller contributions have played a part, be it the ones from K.L. Rahul, Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant or even a Ravindra Jadeja, stepping in as a substitute and excelling on the field.

All this paints a mosaic of winning moments in a campaign soaked in pressure and harking back to the nostalgia of 1983 and 2011 when India won the World Cup.

On Tuesday, after quelling a fighting Bangladesh, the Indians allowed themselves a rare moment of patting themselves on the back before peering at the steep road ahead. “We did have a bit of a celebration in the dressing-room. We are two steps closer to winning the trophy. But we need to take it one game at a time,” Rahul said.

Middle-order conundrum

Dhoni's low scoring rate in the World Cup has compounded India's middle-order woes.   -  getty images

 

Going ahead, the team-management would want to plug even the faintest cracks within the unit. Picking Dinesh Karthik over Kedar Jadhav against Bangladesh, was part of an exercise that aims at shoring up the middle-order, which hasn’t exactly kicked on from the dream starts that the top-three provided. But it is a move that has its after-effects.

Briefly on Tuesday, Bumrah left the turf at Birmingham’s Edgbaston and there was a fear that incase he had a niggle, India would be a bowler-short. This is unlike the glory days when Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh could make a mark at the bowling crease. The current imbalance crept in after Vijay Shankar left with a toe-fracture.

The other worry is that once the sixth wicket falls, the rest don’t survive with the exception of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.   -  getty images

 

The other worry is that once the sixth wicket falls, the rest don’t survive with the exception of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. It affects the manner in which numbers five and six bat. There was this perplexing passage of play on Tuesday which highlights this flaw.

In the last over against Mashrafe Mortaza’s men, M.S. Dhoni drilled Mustafizur Rahman’s first two deliveries to the deep, refused the singles and was dismissed off the third ball. The former captain’s intent was to single-handedly bolster the total but the non-striker was Bhuvneshwar, who is no mug with the bat. But to play the devil’s advocate, once Dhoni left, two more wickets fell and only three runs were added.

India has an issue with its batting structure and the loss to England held a mirror. “The result apart, there were lot of answers we got in terms of our combination and about what we need to do. It is difficult to play 11 games on the trot and win all. Sometimes when you lose you learn more than when you win. Suddenly you realise what needs to be done and make those adjustments,” India’s fielding coach R. Sridhar said.

Kohli and company better make those changes as even a lone error in a knock-out game, can have a debilitating effect.