ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019
Rohit Sharma had a record-breaking run with five hundreds © Getty
What worked for them?
Through the league stages, India’s Plan A worked like a charm. Rohit Sharma and to a lesser extent Virat Kohli managed to shore up the batting, allowing the others to bat around them. KL Rahul too ensured that the top three remained solid, doing his best in a supporting role. Jasprit Bumrah was exceptional with the ball, and well supported by both Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the Powerplay overs, which set them up well for the rest of the innings. Rarely were they pushed out of their comfort zone, for the tried and tested method that they had cultivated over the last couple of years, continued to pay dividends in their journey to the knockouts.
What pulled them back?
The lack of a solid No. 4 was the wormhole to a lot of other problems. Ravi Shastri summed it up when he told Indian Express: “In hindsight, yes, we did need a solid batsman out there in the middle order. But now, that’s something for the future. That’s a position [No.4] that was always giving us problems, but we just couldn’t nail it. Rahul was there but then Shikhar Dhawan got injured. Then Vijay Shankar was there, and he got injured. We just couldn’t control it.”
A raw Rishabh Pant was finally pushed to do the role in hope, and despite his best efforts, it wasn’t enough. With an unreliable middle order, the possibility of strengthening the lower order even if it meant at the cost of a strike bowler was a fallback option. That India could not find a solution to the middle order woes, a bugbear brutally exposed in the Champions Trophy final two years ago, reflects poorly on the management and the work done by the think tank in preparing for that rainy day, which was always around the corner.
What did they sorely miss?
With KL Rahul just about finding his feet at the No. 4 position, the middle order problem seemed to be settled before Dhawan’s injury threw a spanner in the works. With the form he had shown before departing, along with the otherworldly batting of Rohit Sharma, a lot of India’s woes could have taken a backseat had he been around.
Rohit Sharma. His captain even calls him the best ODI player in the world, and it’s a compliment that would sit lightly on Rohit’s shoulders at the moment. Five hundreds with each being of different variety and against different challenges. Shepherding Rahul at the top of the order, Rohit was doing it all without breaking a sweat. It’d remain bittersweet that batting of such high quality would be rewarded with nothing but a semifinalist tag.
What a difference a span of 12 months can make. When Kuldeep Yadav first arrived in England last year for a bilateral series, he finished with as the leading wicket-taker in the three-match ODI series (9 wickets) and in general spread the fear of the unknown – left-arm wrist spin. He even forced the England team to turn to a simulator machine (Merlyn) before they got the hang of how to play him to an extent, and had the experts calling for him to be a Test team regular.
Kuldeep was supposed to be a difference-maker to this Indian side at the World Cup, especially in the middle overs. But despite showing signs of turning a corner early in the tournament after a lacklustre IPL, Kuldeep’s performances took a dip once again with India eventually even leaving him out of the side.
What’s on the highlights reel?
All of Rohit Sharma’s hundreds, Mohammed Shami’s hat-trick as well as his consistently effective seam bowling upfront, Jasprit Bumrah’s sheer game-changing abilities, Ravindra Jadeja’s sensational all-round effort in the semi final are amongst some of the memorable moments for the team from this campaign.