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The 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup is knocking at the door, and all participating nations are gearing up to get their hands at the crown jewel. As per various pundits, hosting nation India starts as one of the favorites in the tournament.
Riding on the back of a successful Asia Cup outing, the Men in Blue continued their good patch with a series win at home against five-time champions Australia. However, just like any other team, the Rohit Sharma-led side has its own pros and cons. So, let’s take a ride through the possible chance of the Indian contingent clinching the silverware.
The Men in Blue: Strengths and Weaknesses
The Cricket World Cup returns to the sub-continent after the last two editions were played in Australia and New Zealand (2015) and England and Wales (2019).
India’s participation in its own backyard is a strength in itself. Out of the last fifteen ODI series played at home, the current number one ranked group has managed to win fourteen of them, just losing to the Aussies 2-1 back in March.
The ruthless bowling attack- amalgamated with quality pacemen and superlative spinners form one of their primary strengths. In addition, the batting unit has performed incredibly well in these conditions, with the middle order complementing the star-studded top order.
However, one such grey area remains to be the performance in the knockout games. A sudden lacklustre show in big matches has kept the Asian Giants at bay from the ICC trophies.
In 2017, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023, Indian batting order tumbled in crucial stages of mega-events. A temperamental issue during a brisk period of time has robbed the Men in Blue of filling their cabinet with accolades.
The Batting Powerhouse
Until the previous World Cup, India was heavily reliant on their top three. With time, the top-order batters have gained support from the middle and lower-middle order in crunch situations.
The Asia Cup 2023 saw Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya reviving the team from a tricky phase when they lost four quick wickets. KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav’s comeback with the willow in the middle order was a thing of beauty.
And the top order, Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli have been a constant force to reckon with the bat. Barring Ravindra Jadeja, every individual batter in the squad seems to be in good touch ahead of the bigger picture. Recent centuries from Shreyas Iyer, Rahul, Gill, and Kohli act as the cherry on top.
Bowling: The Key to Victory?
As a famous saying goes, “Batters win you matches but bowlers win you tournaments”. Mohammed Siraj bagging a six-fer and toppling Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final, Mohammed Shami claiming a fifer against Australia, and Jasprit Bumrah making the batters dance around the crease are all healthy symptoms of India’s pace battery.
Talking about the spin attack, Kuldeep Yadav has snarred 31 scalps in 2023 and is the joint-leading wicket-taker in ODIs in the particular calendar year. Supporting the left-arm wrist spinner, Jadeja recently pocketed 200 ODI wickets and is a great regulator of the middle-over phases in modern cricket.
Moreover, Hardik Pandya’s impressive outing with the ball in the Asia Cup and R Ashwin’s stellar performance in the Australia series serve as icing on the cake for the Indian bowling unit.
The lack of part-time bowlers is set to be a snaring issue if one of the lead all-rounders, Hardik or Ravindra Jadeja suffers an unfortunate injury during the tournament. Currently, India has six bowlers in their playing XI, including the two aforementioned all-rounders, but the lack of part-time spinners is an issue that has not been addressed by the team management ahead of the tournament.
Fielding and Fitness: The Unsung Heroes
“You don’t win or lose the games because of the eleven you select, you win or lose with what those eleven do on the field.”
This is a feather taken out of Rahul Dravid’s hat of success. When one talks about cricket as a three-dimensional sport, fielding remains an integral entity of it.
The Indian team has been a good fielding side from time to time. However, some sloppiness in the field was spotted in the recent Bangladesh game of the Super Fours in Asia Cup 2023.
There are bad days and good days in cricket, and fielding can certainly be a deciding factor in this sport. The likes of Hardik, Jadeja, Kohli, etc. are terrific in the outfield and infield, whereas Gill and Rohit have transpired quick reflexes in the slip cordon in recent times.
Without an iota of doubt, this aspect of the game will be very crucial for the Indian side in the upcoming showpiece event.