Team India, led by Virat Kohli, are among the top contenders for the upcoming World Cup slated to be held in England and Wales from May 30.
The second-ranked ODI team will begin their tournament campaign against South Africa on June 5. Before that, India had two warm-up games against New Zealand and Bangladesh on May 25 and 28 respectively. Kohli's men lost to New Zealand by 6 wickets and were handed a reality check. Against Bangladesh, Team India will look to iron out the flaws of the first game and be ready for the battle against the Proteas.
Here is a SWOT analysis of the Indian squad for the showpiece event.
The biggest strength of the Indian side is their top order batting. In Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, India arguably have the strongest top three in the tournament. Over the last four years, more often than not, these three have won the game for the team and going into the World Cup, all the Indian fans would hope that the trio score bulk of the runs on flat England pitches.
Another positive for the Indian team going into the showpiece event is their bowling. With the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the line up, the bowling line-up can wreak havoc on any opposition, even on the flat pitches which will be there on offer in England.
The weakness of this Indian team is their overdependence on the top three. If Rohit, Shikhar and Virat fail to perform in a particular match, the opposition can put tremendous pressure on the relatively inexperienced middle-order.
The number four conundrum also continues to spark doubts over stability in the middle order. And an injured, out-of-form Kedar Jadhav is another cause for concern who is not only capable of hitting big but also gives Kohli the option of a fifth bowler.
However, although not a major concern, the Indian top order's struggle to deal with swinging conditions was again up for show in the warm-up game against New Zealand. While it is not expected to be overcast and swinging all the time this summer, any such situation will again test the mettle of the openers and Kohli.
Head coach Ravi Shastri has already said that the team has got enough ammunition and has flexible players who can play at any position given the situation of the game.
Apart from the likes of Bumrah and Bhuvi, India have reliable all-rounders in Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. They both can bowl a full quota of 10 overs and also have the ability of hitting big sixes and collecting runs at a brisk pace.
One of the biggest challenges for the team would be to put the recent ODI form behind them. Before the IPL, the Men in Blue lost the home series to Australia as they tried a number of combinations in order to give a chance to their 15. With just three wins in their last 10 international fixtures, Kohli would be wary of the fact that they need to regain their lost form and start well in the World Cup.
Also, another thing that can hamper India's chances is the lack of a left-arm fast bowler in their pace battery. While Bumrah, Bhuvi and Shami are all right-handers, the presence of someone like Khaleel Ahmed would have brought variety to the Indian pace attack and prove to be handy on flat England pitches.
Squad: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, M.S. Dhoni (WK), Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
(With inputs from IANS)