Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team will square off against five-time world champions Australia in two Twenty20 Internationals and five ODIs before they head to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 which will be played in England. The India side are high on confidence, having won three consecutive bilateral ODI series. They will head into the contest as firm favorites, having won a bilateral series in Australia for the first time in Tests and ODIs as well as eliminating a 10-year ODI pain in New Zealand. At home, India has not lost a series ever since their 2-3 loss against South Africa and they have registered three consecutive bilateral series wins against Australia at home.
In their last 13 ODIs, India have suffered just three losses against West Indies, Australia and New Zealand respectively, winning nine with one match tied. The dominance, though, cannot be masked by certain discrepancies that have crept into the Indian cricket team at certain points in time. Heading into this series as well as for the World Cup, here are five areas of improvement for Virat Kohli’s side.
1.) Over reliance on Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma
During the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, India’s top three scored the bulk of the runs. In the final, they were blown away cheaply against Pakistan and India never recovered as they lost the final. In the Sydney clash against Australia, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan fell cheaply while in the Hamilton game against New Zealand, Rohit Sharma and Dhawan fell quickly to put pressure on the middle order. For India to have a good series and World Cup, it is necessary for the middle order to step up in case all three fail.
2.) No Plan B in case Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal fail
The success for the Indian cricket team, notably at home and in some cases overseas, was based on how Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav dried the runs in the middle overs to put the opposition under pressure. In case they have failed, the results have not gone India’s way. In the rain-curtailed game against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2018, Chahal and Kuldeep were carted around as India lost their only game in the six-match series. Against the West Indies in Vizag, both spinners were taken to the cleaners by Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope as the game ended in a tie. When India’s spinners have gone for runs, Kohli has sometimes struggled to come up with a Plan B.
3.) Inability to counter swing
What was the common factor behind India’s Champions Trophy loss in Oval and the loss in Hamilton? It was left-arm swing. India has sometimes failed to counter the swinging conditions. In England, with the bowlers expected to get some swing at the start, the Indian batsmen need to play swing bowling better if they are to dictate terms to the opposition.
4.) Too much rotation in the bowling
In order to manage the workload of the bowlers, the Indian team has often rotated them for some matches. Kuldeep and Chahal have not played often in many ODIs in overseas conditions while the likes of Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have also been rested for games or series. One wonders, with so much rotation, how will the rhythm of the bowlers be affected heading into the tournament? This is a minor concern for India but nevertheless, an area where Kohli can focus.
5.) Misjudging the conditions
In India’s series losses in England and South Africa, the team were often criticised of not reading the conditions correctly. Virat Kohli might not face this issue in India but he will face plenty of it in England. In the 2017 Champions Trophy, India chose to bowl when batting could have been the right option.