Blunted bowling leaves champs India vulnerable
In Rohit Sharma, the only batsman with two 200s in one-day internationals, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina and the explosive Dhoni, India possess destructive batting firepower.
But the frail bowling attack remains a worry, as was evident during the recent Test series in Australia where the hosts piled up 500-plus totals in each of the four matches during a 2-0 win.
Former captain Sunil Gavaskar lashed out at the present set of seamers comprising Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav, saying India needed to unearth new bowlers.
“You can’t keep them going because they have done nothing in the past few years,” Gavaskar said.
“They are not penetrative enough and it did not look as if they wanted to take 20 wickets.”
The same seam attack will feature in the World Cup alongside three frontline spinners in off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-armers Ravindra Jadeja and young Akshar Patel.
“Big totals are needed to win,” India’s first World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev told AFP.
“We will be better off chasing targets rather than giving bowlers a target to defend.”
India won the title under Dhoni in 2011 with an experienced squad that included seasoned campaigners like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.
The present squad has just four players — Dhoni, Kohli, Raina and Ashwin — who were part of that winning combination, leaving the team short of World Cup experience.
The nucleus of the squad is the same which helped India win the Champions Trophy one-day tournament in England in 2013, but a power-packed batting display is needed to succeed again.
Rohit Sharma, who followed his one-day 209 against Australia in 2013 with a scintillating world record score of 264 against the West Indies last year, is expected to fire at the top of the order despite a poor Test series.
Kohli, recently appointed Test captain after Dhoni quit the longer format, is one of the finest batsmen in the modern game with 21 one-day centuries in the last five years, a testimony of his hunger for big scores.
Dhoni, the peg around whom India’s fortunes will revolve, is a leader and batsman tailor-made for limited-overs cricket whose improvised big-hitting has won many a battle for India.
But the current tour of Australia resembles the one in 1992 when Mohammad Azharuddin’s men were thrashed 4-0 in the Test series, lost out in the tri-series also featuring the West Indies and failed to make the knock-out cut in the World Cup.
This time, Dhoni’s team have lost the Tests and are in danger of missing the tri-series final, indicating an over-exposure to Australian conditions could again prove detrimental.
But a win over Pakistan in their first match in Adelaide on February 15 — India have never lost to their arch-rivals in the World Cup — will be the tonic Dhoni needs to revitalise the side- AFP