The Indian middle-order’s inability to finish games can cost the team dearly
Winning often masks failures. For Team India this certainly appears to be the case in the ICC World Cup 2019. After beating Bangladesh in their last game, India has secured a place in the semi-finals of the tournament and sitting comfortably in the second position of the points table.
However, despite winning six games, India hasn’t been clinical, and there have been issues plaguing the team throughout the tournament. The biggest headache for the team has been the middle-order. That they have been inconsistent is now well-known. The more significant concern is their inability to finish games after the top-order has set it up for them. This has been apparent in the last few games for India and might cost them dearly in the knock out stage.
In the match against Bangladesh, after being 162-0 in 25 overs, India managed to finish on 315-9 in their 50 overs. They added a poor 62-5 in their last ten overs. Had it not been India’s solid performance with the ball, they might have well lost the match which they eventually won by only 28 runs.
India had also failed to finish off the game against England while chasing a target of 338. They had a good platform by the end of the 35 overs with wickets in hand, but the middle-order couldn’t get the job done, and India fell short by 31 runs. In the last five overs, especially, India, with MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav at the crease, gave up and didn’t even bother to try going for the big hits to chase the target down. This earned India a lot of flak.
Earlier in the tournament, India had also failed to finish well against West Indies, Afghanistan, and even Pakistan. All of these were while batting first and with hitters like MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav in their lineup, India should have finished powerfully. But they faltered. And only through their terrific bowling did they manage to secure victories in these games.
In the semi-finals, though, where the stakes will be much higher, a lapse like this from the middle-order can be fatal for the team’s chances. Right now, after much juggling, the Indian team management has settled at Rishabh Pant at No.4, followed by MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, and Dinesh Karthik.
All of these batsmen are talented and can destroy any bowling attack of the world. However, Dhoni has been struggling to move the pace along, and Hardik has got out after a couple of good cameos. Pant and Karthik, who have replaced Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav in the eleven, are still fresh and can make a difference in closing the games in the latter half of the tournament for India.
Captain Virat Kohli will now have to be careful about how he uses his middle and lower order in the remaining matches. That can be the difference in winning and losing during the semi-final and the final if India gets there. India will get one last chance to sort out their middle-order mess in their final league game against Sri Lanka. The team management would hope the middle-order performs well and goes on to carry that form into the playoff stage.