In the ongoing series between England and Pakistan, we have seen a terrifying pattern. In two of the three games (the other one being washed out), all four innings saw both the sides crossing the 300-run mark by a fair margin.
Moreover, in the third ODI, England chased down 359 with more than five overs remaining. Contrary to the popular notion, the pitches in England have been flat and batting-friendly for some years. However, the England-Pakistan series rings a few alarming bells ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
The bilateral ODI series is a timely reminder that 300-plus scores are likely to be the trend throughout the tournament. Justifiably, the team with the fieriest batting performance in the tournament is likely to lift the coveted trophy on July 14.
Top three or bust?
Since January 1, 2018, India’s top-3 has scored 60.4 per cent of the total runs made by the team. Virat Kohli leads the chart – despite missing the Asia Cup and games from West Indies’ tour of India and some ODIs away against New Zealand.
The Indian skipper has scored 1813 runs at a staggering average of 98. Rohit follows him with 1586 runs at 58.74, while Dhawan, who faced a dip in form before the IPL, holds the third spot with 1317 runs at 43.90.
No other Indian batsman has crossed the 1000-run mark during this time. Interestingly, Ambati Rayudu, who was dropped from the squad for the World Cup, is the fourth-highest run-getter for the side with 639 in 21 games. He is also the only player to score a century besides the top-3.
As the stats suggest, the consistent performances from the three batsmen have been key to India’s positive results and successes at home and abroad. In perhaps the only series where the top-3 failed to perform consistently, India suffered a 3-2 defeat at home to Australia. Worryingly, the series was the final international action Indian players engaged in before the World Cup.
In such a scenario, India’s top-order holds a significant responsibility in steering the team to a strong position in the World Cup.
The no.4 dilemma
The top-form of Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli has shielded India’s ‘number-4’ concerns on quite a few occasions. In the long term, however, it has only papered over the cracks. The fact that the fourth-highest run-getter in Rayudu was dropped from the World Cup squad has only made the dilemma more apparent.
Shankar, who is originally touted to be the number-4 for the tournament, has hardly played in the position for a significant period. Rahul isn’t a first-team regular (he has played only four ODI matches since January 1, 2018) and Dhoni’s performances have failed to inspire confidence. Moreover, skipper Virat Kohli has stated on many occasions that the wicket-keeper will bat at number 5.
All these concerns only aggravate the pressure on the top-3 to deliver in the showpiece event.
What about players down the order?
Sadly, there has been a shortage of runs down the order as well. Kedar Jadhav’s injury has come at the worst time for the side. There have been conflicting reports about his availability – while some suggest that he could be fit by India’s second game of the tournament, the others report that India is eyeing a replacement for the all-rounder.
Jadhav has an impressive average of 47 in 22 games since the last year. India has a power-hitter in the form of Hardik Pandya, but his abilities to build the innings are fairly untested.
The top-3’s strong form throughout the previous year became Pandya’s own nemesis in this case, as he faced only 120 deliveries in 13 matches – scoring 129 runs.
To sum it up, India’s chances of lifting the World Cup rely heavily on the willows of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. The side possesses a strong bowling line-up, including the number-one ranked bowler in Jasprit Bumrah.
However, the top-3 batsmen will have to complement its bowlers efficiently throughout the tournament to make a strong claim for the trophy.