The ICC World Cup 2015 is set to be held in Australia and like every year, expectations are riding high on the Indian team. Being the defending champions, the team has a lot of pressure on it. Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar is not a part of the squad anymore and there is no Zaheer Khan either for inflicting blows on opposition. Virender Sehwag has been dropped from the team too who was crucial as an opener and a bowler in the early stages of the match. However, the new players who are a part of the squad are no less capable. The cohesive and formidable unit is led by one of the most able captains that India has had. The lost stability and zeal needs to be brought back in the team. The ODI form hopefully has not been affected by the disastrous run in the test format. The quitting of captain Dhoni for the WC 2015 has made several hopeful that he has a game plan up his sleeve.
Rahane has slowly started easing into his new role that of an opener while Shikhar Dhawan has to recover his golden streak again. Recently, Rahul Dravid, known as The Wall has commented in public that defending the World Cup would be difficult for India. The battling line up of the country is quite robust but the bowling attack has constantly shown its weaker side. However, Dravid does not seem to have lost all hope as he has left a window open for lady luck to wave her wand. According to him the team would easily read the quarterfinals. The cup will however be lifted by the team which has luck by its side and three solid games in its kitty.
Dhoni’s men would definitely be hoping to be the side that Lady Luch is always with when the World Cup begins in New Zealand and Australia in February. India had won the World Cup 2011 tournament which was held in its home grounds, the Indian subcontinent. Stalwarts such as Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar were a part of the team back then. The latest squad of 15 members chosen are quite young where the median age is 27.35. Nevertheless, their experience is quite high as the combined number of matches played by them is 1242. In the ODI rankings done by International Cricket Council, the team comes in a close second which is quite appreciable. However, some other website which has made a compilation of their statistics have ranked them at the sixth position, especially after the dismal performance in Australia.
Some websites have made an analysis of the 14 participants of the World Cup 2015 tournament. The individual careers of the team members of each team’s 15 members were analysed for ODI and the numbers were aggregated then. India was ranked on the second position for its batting order among the top 8. However, they were the bottom team in terms of bowling among those same 8 teams.
If the batting average and strike rate of batsmen who have at least played in 25 innings are taken into account, then the country has 3 batsmen among the top 10 ones, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni. In fact, these three batsmen feature among the top 5. However, if the conceded runs per over and those conceded per wicket of the bowlers at the World Cup are taken into account, then none of the Indian bowlers feature among the top 30 bowlers.
The team’s bowlers have consistently let the side down. R. Ashwin who has claimed most numbers of wickets, right after Ravindra Jadeja does not play well on bouncier surfaces. Mohammad Shami has the lowest wickets/overs average of all the Indian bowlers that are a part of the WC squad who have played 25 innings at least. However, his bowling economy is quite shaky at 5.7 runs per over. Ravindra Jadeja who is currently the side’s best bowler may not participate in the world cup altogether for his injuries. The swinging and bouncy pitches of New Zealand and Australia shall definitely pose problems for the Indian side including the batting line ups. Through a better part of 2014, the squad’s main concern was the sudden collapse. What is even more worrying is that these collapses have happened on flat pitches which are perfect for batting.
The Indian cricket team may be talented but they have a shortfall of form whenever they are playing away from their home pitches. In New Zealand and Australia, Dhoni’s men shall hope to avoid similar kinds of collapse. The lower middle order of the batting line up consisting of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu is quite reliable. Ravindra Jadeja’s skills with the bat have become somewhat consistent and combined with Ashwin positioned at number 8, the team’s lack of a true number 7 batsman in the order may be made up for.
The Indian team have already been in Australia for the past 2 months and if the team manages to go to the WC 2015 final then they would have spent 4 months at a stretch. Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli have played in every game so far. The changes in schedule for the death of Phillip Hughes have meant that the team has had to play 3 tests back-to-back. Rohit and Ishant Sharma have been injured, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has only recovered from injuries, and Ravindra Jadeja is not playing currently whereas MSD has just taken retirement from tests.
When the team has been fighting tooth and nail to stay abreast and to see their efforts not bearing fruit, it can be disappointing mentally more than physically. After the Indian team was dismissed for putting up the rock bottom total against England and lost in Brisbane heavily, MSD spoke of the need to stay fresh and not be worn out.
Dhoni has commented that the criticism should not affect the team because the same batting line up had won the Champions Trophy which took place in important. The idea should be about being confident and having faith. Rather than focussing on scoring runs, you need to be prepared. He has said that the four test series and tri series put a lot of pressure because of the effort gone into scoring runs. Some time off is needed to plan better and cool down. The time off may be helpful for Shikhar Dhawan who has scored well in only one innings in the Gabba Test. He was not a part of the last ODI played in New Zealand in the year 2014 but he sprang back to life in the Tests. He was also not a part of the last test match but that did not improve his score in the 2 ODIs played so far. In both matches, he was out on single digit scores. Skipper Dhoni feels that the time between the tri series, World Cup and more gap between ODIs, must be used judiciously. So far no signs of strain on the team are showing but MSD doesn’t want to wait till that level is reached.
Captain Dhoni has commented that form is not something that you gain back once you touch fifty runs or so. You need to observe the ball and play the way it swings. A matter of 5 to 10 runs can make or break your form. When the ball starts to middle, form tends to reappear. He has cited Adam Gilchrist as an example who used to start playing his shots from the first ball itself whenever he felt he was out of form.
Once the ODI series gets over, a session of warm up matches will begin in Australia on the 8th of February which would provide insight into the forms of several teams participating in the Cricket World Cup of 2015 and would also offer fans of the game to watch a match in case they live in the venues of the matches. The locations selected are Oval at Adelaide, Sydney Cricket Ground, and Melbourne Cricket Ground and Hagley Oval in Christchurch. The matches shall be played between 8 and 13 February and there will be 14 of them. These cities are incidentally hosting the actual cricket matches of the tournament as well.
Some of the warm up games shall be played at non-tournament destinations such as Junction Oval in Melbourne, Lincoln Oval located outside Christchurch and Blacktown Internetational Sports Park located in the western suburbs in Sydney. India shall be facing Australia in the first match to be held on February 8. The next match that the team shall play will be on February 10 against Afghanistan.
The public is welcome to observe the matches. Tickets are needed for entry in these matches although they come for free. These matches are not the official ODIs scheduled for the WC. They have been reserved for allowing teams to prepare for the big tourney. The rules of the game are slightly different as 15 players (maximum) can be used for the game throughout its duration.
Team India’s Fixtures
Sun Feb 15 – India v Pakistan – Adelaide Oval
Sun Feb 22 – India v South Africa – Melbourne Cricket Ground
Sat Feb 28 India v United Arab Emirates – Western Australia Cricket Association
Fri Mar 06 – India v West Indies – Western Australia Cricket Association
Tue Mar 10 – India v Ireland – Seddon Park, Hamilton
Sat Mar 14 – India v Zimbabwe – Eden Park, Auckland