Bengaluru, July 3: India were back to their winning ways on Tuesday (July 2), when they beat an obstinate Bangladesh by 28 runs at Edgbaston, the same venue where a 31-run loss to England had left them under an intense scrutiny.
Rohit Sharma slammed yet another hundred (104)- his second consecutive and fourth in the tournament - while Jasprit Bumrah gave the perfect finishing touches with figures of four for 55 to tame a side which had shown a lot of promise this edition.
However, although India won the game - their sixth in eight outings - yet one feels compelled to say that Tuesday saw India picking their worst team combination in the tournament.
There are still questions about their middle order that Virat Kohli's men are struggling to find answers to and things have been made worse by injuries to two batsmen - Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar - both of who have been ruled out.
It was disappointing to see three wicket-keeper-batsmen playing in the XI against Bangladesh (including KL Rahul, the number goes to four!). Apart from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, newcomer Rishabh Pant and experienced Dinesh Karthik were also included in the XI to make up the numbers in the middle order. It is certainly not a healthy sign and can put Kohli in big trouble in a big game, like in the knock-outs.
First of all, filling up the slots in the middle-order with people like Pant and Karthik only means that India are not having somebody who can play the role of an anchor. If India have such paucity of specialist batsmen, they could call up Ajinkya Rahane who is still technically a sound batsman despite an ordinary show in limited-overs cricket. In fact, Rahane is currently in England playing for Hampshire but he wasn't called up as Vijay's replacement, instead Mayank Agarwal who is still to play in limited-overs got the call. There is lack of clarity in the thought process which is giving rise to a potential danger of including too many hit-and-miss batsmen in the XI.
Secondly, India took the field with just five bowlers against Bangladesh which is again a dangerous thing to do. With none of the remaining six players having any sizeable experience in bowling, an off day for any of those five would put the team in a danger zone. On Tuesday, it was Mohammed Shami. India were fortunate that Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar took those wickets in the death overs before Shami could finish off his quota. He went for 68 runs in nine overs with even the lower-order batsmen treating him with disdain. We hope Kohli learns quick from his mistakes and stops experimenting at a critical stage of the World Cup.
India, surprisingly, haven't made use of Ravindra Jadeja in the tournament when he easily comes into a playing XI on any day. The left-arm spinner-all-rounder has a better batting average and strike-rate than Karthik, can bowl and also is a terrific fielder. If India are really struggling to find an extra batsmen and filling up the middle-order with wicket-keepers, why not go for Jadeja who can give India an extra bowling option. All-rounders are certainly the best options to go for if one is lacking specialist batsmen.
Had India picked Jadeja instead of Karthik on Tuesday, it would have given Kohli a sixth bowling option (174 wickets for Jadeja in ODIs) as a cover for any of the first five. When the team is not abiding by the basics, then why not go for unconventional wisdom whole-heartedly?
Finally, Dhoni. The wicket-keeper-batsman struggled yet again to push the scoring towards the end which gives clear indication that he is well past his prime. India will certainly not drop the senior player in this World Cup. Why not then use him as a No.4 batsman who can give a solidity to the top order with his more anchor-like batting and send the hard-hitters from No.5 onwards. In case India's top 3 do well, Pant or Hardik Pandya can be promoted to No.4. But it is certainly not in India's interest to send the ageing Dhoni too down the order any more.