KL Rahul needs to own more responsibility
KL Rahul grabbed the opportunity with both the hands as he scored runs, first at No. 4 and later as the opener when Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament. He slammed a half-century in the game against Pakistan when promoted as the opener and justified the team management's decision.
However, his knock against Afghanistan was disappointing as the Mangaluru-born cricketer threw his wicket away despite spending crucial time into the middle. Rahul laboured through his innings to reach 30 off 53 deliveries and revived the team after his opening partner Rohit Sharma was dismissed cheaply. But the Karnataka batsman played a reckless reverse sweep off Mohammad Nabi to throw his wicket away.
The right-handed batsman was criticised for his stroke play and rightly so, for he had an opportunity of converting the start into a big score. In the upcoming games, team management would be hoping for matured innings from the talented batsman.
No. 4 conundrum returns to haunt
Team India went into the World Cup with a big question about who is going to be their No. 4 batsman. KL Rahul's short, yet crucial, innings against South Africa in their opening game and settled the No. 4 debate with his batting effort.
However, opener Shikhar Dhawan's injury and subsequent exit from the tournament forced Rahul to share the opening responsibilities with Rohit Sharma.
Rahul's promotion at the top meant Team India had to once again find a batsman at No.4 and the team management chose Vijay Shankar for the job against Afghanistan.
Vijay Shankar, a three-dimensional player, was preferred over Ambati Rayudu, who was the designated No. 4 batsman before the World Cup. But Shankar was given a preference over Rayudu when the squad was picked.
The Tamil Nadu all-rounder walked into the middle at No.4 against Afghanistan but failed to leave a mark in the game. He had an opportunity to make it count but couldn't impress with his batting. After spending crucial time into the middle and getting a cautious start he failed to capitalise upon it.
Shankar's unimpressive knock has once again triggered the debate whether he could be the versatile No. 4 batsman the team needs. Team has already promoted Hardik Pandya at No. 4 and used him as a floater in the death over but Hardik can't be a permanent solution.
Team has Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik waiting for their chance in the ranks and either of them could be better batting option than Shankar. Thus, the Indian team management once again is faced with a selection conundrum at No. 4.
MS Dhoni's slow batting a major concern
Veteran cricketer MS Dhoni's contribution towards the side isn't just his batting and that's a gospel truth for the former captain still runs the game from behind the stumps by guiding the bowlers and making those crucial fielding/strategic changes.
However, form of Dhoni, the batsman, is equally important for the team's success in the tournament.
The 37-year-old played a slow innings of 52-ball 28 against Afghanistan and remained overly defensive against the spinners on a sluggish track. Neither he, nor his partner Kedar Jadhav looked to rotate strikes and kept the scoreboard ticking which ultimately hurt India.
As a result, Team India could only must 224 in 50 overs which is their lowest total batting first in the last four years.
Dhoni never looked to attack Afghan spinners who bowled the tight lines and when he actually attempted a genuine shot against Rashid Khan, the Ranchi cricketer was stumped - only for the second time in his ODI cricket career.
Even cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar wasn't impressed with Dhoni's slow batting against Afghanistan. Dhoni's inability to rotate the strike with cost India in the big games if they fail to post a decent total on the board due to slow batting in the middle overs.
Hence, the veteran needs to change his excessive defensive approach against spinners in the middle overs.
Ravindra Jadeja could be an option on sluggish tracks
As the pitches in England are getting drier and sluggish the spinners are getting good amount of purchase and troubling the batsmen.
Finger spinners are going to flourish on such tracks if similar weather conditions prevail in England.
In such a case, Ravindra Jadeja could be a better option for the Saurashtra all-rounder becomes dangerous on such tracks. He becomes a deadly bowler on such tracks and has been in sublime form in the limited-overs lately.
Also, Jadeja is a good batting option lower down the order and helps the team bat deep. He makes the lower-order strong in Bhuvneshwar Kumar's absence.
He's the best fielder in the side and saves 15-20 runs with his athleticism on the ground, takes those brilliant catches at point, and effects those run outs.
Hence, Jadeja could be included in the side as a replacement to Vijay Shankar - who's services in bowling department aren't required if the pitches remain dry.