Result: India won by 6 wickets
Fortunately for Indian fans, there was no individual milestone to be achieved this time around. Another loss to Bangladesh would have surely set tongues wagging, and terms like ‘bunny’ and ‘not an upset’ would have been screamed from Eastern rooftops. If not for Virat Kohli, though, this was a frightening possibility.
Another match-winning 100 in a chase, and India’s new (temporary) captain may have just distracted the country from his teams’ blatant flaws.
Tougher teams like Sri Lanka and Pakistan have the capability to expose them. For now, let us make a list of glaring problems that need to be addressed, without being blinded by the brilliance of Kohli’s strokeplay:
– For starters, India’s opening pair no more look the force they were last year in home conditions. It all began with the seemingly harmless West Indies tour, during those 3 ODIs, where Dhawan failed to take off and Rohit began to stutter. Dhawan will have to continue to open, irrespective of his technical flaws, but Rohit will have to be considered lower down the order again. He still hasn’t figured out how to pace himself in the first 10 overs, playing out too many dot balls. Both of them have forgotten the art of rotating the strike, playing overs together before realizing they need to step on the gas. This makes it harder for the middle order. Too much luxury cannot be afforded to someone like Rohit who can easily take the game away from the opposition if he decides to be more attacking. The thinktank seems to have invested a lot into this new opening pair, and will continue to commit, but some serious mental changes need to be made at the top.
– Ashwin pretty much spelled his own doom when he decided to reproduce Narine’s action, full sleeves and all. It was an act of immense desperation, where he not only changed his grip but his entire loading action, runup and arc. The time to do this is when you are 15 and keen to find a comfortable bowler to emulate. Ashwin’s decision was ridiculous, and he needs to go soul searching after yet another unsuccessful outing on helpful pitches. Mishra is available, as are the likes of Rasool and Karn Sharma. Time to think ahead for Jadeja’s new spin twin.
– Jadeja meanwhile needs to understand that he is a finisher in the absence of Dhoni and Raina. Karthik is smart enough to know that, but Jadeja hasn’t displayed much intelligence in the batting department yet. The middle order is brittle, and with Ashwin to be out soon, Sir must do justice to the talent that has brought him 3 triple centuries in domestic cricket.
– Though this is unfair to Rayadu, it is time to use Pujara. He can be a busy player at the top, finding gaps better than the openers- he should replace Rohit at 1, while Rohit can play at 5 again in home conditions. His experience will help in the middle order right now.
– Bhuvaneshwar Kumar needs to be used in one single spell at the beginning, unwavering and tireless, for 10 overs. He is a poor death bowler, and needs to relearn the art of dismissing top order batsmen. His toothlessness recently hasn’t helped matters at all.
– Varun Aaron needs a stint or two abroad before he is allowed to play for India again. It is imperative that Umesh Yadav comes back and finds his rhythm to bowl in tandem with the impressive Shami- the only bright spot of India’s bowling. If not him, Mohit Sharma needs to be given an extended run, because let’s face it, we’re never going to find a tear-away quick ever again.
– Duncan Fletcher, whose contract expires in May, must not be retained. It is time to use an experienced Indian coach, not necessarily with a reputation to boot, to bring out the best out of the bowlers. Batting will not be a major issue for the near future, but leadership and bowling will be- and with the world cup just a year away- major management changes are due immediately.