India’s defence of cricket’s premier crown has been so unbelievably solid that it has made their last group fixture an absolute dead rubber. Even …
India’s defence of cricket’s premier crown has been so unbelievably solid that it has made their last group fixture an absolute dead rubber. Even if they lose, India will still top Pool B ahead of South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies. While Pool B games have hit headlines for mind blasting innings from likes of Gayle and AB DeVilliers, Team India still sit pretty with the best NRR of +2.15. With so much comfort at hand, should India make some changes vs Zimbabwe to sharpen up the entire squad before the knockouts? Or play it out safe and not risk any blot in their winning streak?
Let us look at the five changes India can make and merits behind each of them
#1 Virat Kohli can be given a rest
Virat Kohli has featured in all games since the Indian squad landed late last year on this continent. He was stupendous in the test series, took over the mantle of test cricket captaincy, led the team well and so far is India’s second highest run scorer in WC 2015.
His misunderstanding/altercation with a media personnel, has been the only blot in a flawless campaign by the men in blue. If there is one person who deserves ‘leave’ from office, it’s him. Kohli should get a day off.
#2 Rahane, Raina, Dhoni can bat up the order
Kohli’s rest has also much to do with giving adequate batting time to the middle order. MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina have had only one meaningful innings and two failures each to show thus far, in an otherwise high scoring tournament. Rahane has played one scintillating innings vs the Proteas, picked some runs off Ireland and has had two failures.
Since India will be experimenting with their bowling, they will likely have some target to chase, so it doesn’t matter if India bat first or second, it’s more pertinent that the middle order get decent hits.
#3 Axar Patel and Jadeja in the same lineup
The batsman and bowler in ‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja has yet to perform this world cup. His batting average of 6.00 is unacceptable and his bowling economy of 4.86 is worst amongst the regular Indian bowlers this WC. Jadeja started the tournament coming off an injury, so giving him more playing time makes sense.
He is clearly the soft link in our lineup when you factor in that he always came to play when the opposition was down or when you compare his numbers against what his spin partner Ashwin has performed.
Axar Patel was our best bowler during the ill fated tri series, preceding the world cup, but what took his place away was batting scores of 0,0,1 and 5*. Does the kid deserve a game to impress? In most likelihood even if Axar gets 3 wickets vs Zimbabwe, Jadeja is likely to play the quarterfinals.
But if Axar bowls well and scores a quick 30, options will open up for India and keep Jadeja out of his comfort zone. So it makes sense to play with both Axar and Jadeja in the match.
#4 Stuart Binny can replace Ashwin
With Axar and Jadeja playing, having Ashwin in the XI would be a luxury. Ashwin has been brilliant this world cup – 11 wickets at economy of 3.89. He was sensational vs Pakistan and Ireland when he came to bowl at a time when the opposition batting were right on top. Ashwin clearly deserves a rest.
Stuart Binny has made most of the limited outings he got – in the tri series and warm up games. His on field performances – 56 runs, 5 wickets at decent bowling economy in 3 games – quickly transformed all favouritism theories regarding his selection, to that of being India’s only allrounder in the squad.
Calling Binny an allrounder would be being unfair to the term ‘allrounder’, but there is no doubt that runs are drying up from Jadeja, which means any handy lower order batsman who can score quick cameos and bowl 8 over consistently, needs to be considered.
This puts Jadeja, Binny and Axar fighting for one spot, which means we can expect some solid performances from the trio.
The tracks in Australia are favouring huge scores, every other day a 300 is hitting the scoreboard. The deeper you bat, the better off you will be in a chase scenario.
#5 Playing Bhuvneshwar Kumar ahead of Umesh Yadav/Shami
Bhuvneshwar Kumar played one game (vs UAE) and seemed to find form after an otherwise ordinary tour. Like Jadeja, he too has been coming off an injury and will need more playing time. A fit and in-form Bhuvi often scalps top order batsman, gives meat to the fielding and lower order batting.
Umesh Yadav has been good in patches. He bowled well against Pakistan, West Indies and the United Arab Emirates; but leaked runs against South Africa and Ireland. With Umesh, one gets a feeling that a rank bad ball is always around the corner. At this stage of the event, bowling economy will be a big factor in these tracks.
On the other hand, there is Mohammed Shami, who is the best bowler for India in the WC2015. He averages 3 wickets per game, has an economy of 4.14 and every game has accounted for at least one top order batsman. He was already rested against UAE team, but our fast bowlers are known to be fragile, so any amount of rest is good for them.