A young Australian side scripted a stunning turnaround to register a truly special triumph over India in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series. The Aussies looked down and out after losing the first two matches, but as is their wont, displayed tremendous fighting spirit to inflict a rare home series defeat on the Indians and sow seeds of doubt in the team management’s mind ahead of the forthcoming World Cup.
On the other hand, the Aaron Finch-led Australia are suddenly looking in good shape and once David Warner and Steve Smith return after the expiry of their ban, the defending champions will be a formidable side in the showpiece event.
The Men in Blue have a lot to ponder. It is ironical that after almost of two years of experimentation, India still have not zeroed in on a player for the No. 4 slot. If Virat Kohli’s words after the defeat in the series decider at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi on Wednesday night are any indication, the Indian think tank have decided on the World Cup squad barring one spot. It is safe to assume that it is the problematic No. 4 position.
Ahead of the just-concluded ODI series, Kohli had emphatically stated that the Indian Premier League (IPL), which begins on March 23, will not have any bearing on the World Cup squad.
Now that both Ambati Rayudu and K L Rahul struggled in the limited chances they got in the series, the IPL performances will be the clinching factor. True, Rahul got only one chance and he batted at No. 3 position in the Mohali ODI, while Rayudu failed in the opening three games.
Rahane back in contention
Ajinkya Rahane could well earn himself a place in the World Cup squad if he excels in the IPL. Rahane has found himself out of the Indian ODI squad after a satisfying outing in the six-match series on the tour of South Africa last year. In fact, after a classy 79 in the opening game at Durban, Kohli himself had spoken highly about the doughty batsman’s ability to play quality fast bowling.
The conditions in England will challenge the Indian batsmen and with the side being top heavy, the Men in Blue will need a solid player at No. 4. Unlike a few other contenders such as Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar, Rahane has plenty of experience in the shorter version of the game. He was also part of the last World Cup squad.
Pant did not have a great time behind the wickets in the couple of matches he played against Australia. It will be a toss-up between him and Dinesh Karthik for the reserve wicketkeeper’s slot. Here again the IPL performances could be the deciding factor.
The Indian team looked a fairly balanced outfit prior to the Australia series, but three consecutive defeats have clearly exposed the chinks in its armour, especially the shaky middle order. One can only hope that the key players in the Indian squad raise their game once the World Cup begins.