NEWDELHI: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” goes the saying, but one was left wondering whether the corollary could be true after India’s heavy defeat against Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy final on Sunday.
Virat Kohli’s side was a clear favourite as India’s strengths and Pakistan’s weaknesses were analysed threadbare. In the end, an inspired Pakistan proved too much for the holders.
Once the emotion of a crushing defeat in the final, that too at the hands of Pakistan, subsides, it would become clear the time has come for India, despite not being broken, to still seek upgrades.
Ahead of the semifinal against Bangladesh, something snapped in Kohli when asked about India’s consistency in ICC tournaments. After all, the 2011 World Cup winners won the Champions Trophy two years later and reached the 2015 World Cup semifinals, losing to the best team in the competition.
THE NEW BREED
Finishing runners-up at the Oval again shows India’s strength in limited-overs cricket. They also reached the World T20 semifinals in 2016, losing to eventual winners West Indies. “I’m very happy you have said semifinal is consistency because hamare yahan agar India jeetega toh kharab tournament ho gaya!” (If India win then the tournament itself is bad!). Perhaps the comment was a response to criticism by media and fans whenever the team slips up. Kohli though went on to explain he was happy with the new breed of players, and the importance of winning itself. “In our country, the happiness of winning a game is something so special,” he said.
But with the next World Cup just two years away, India may have to give their tactics a shakeup. The concerns of what will happen if the top three batsmen fall in a heap, and early, came true. Pakistan could have perhaps won only in one way, getting Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli early. They did that, and against an inspired bowling attack, India folded with almost 20 overs left.
The template of a steady start may need a relook to make batting more robust going forward, and the intent could be vital to put potent bowlers off track.
In England (2013 and 2017 Champions Trophy) and Australia (2015 World Cup), the pitches played well. But in this Champions Trophy, teams also were lucky not to feel the full force of Australia, done in by rain.
The other challenge for India ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England is putting in place a middle-order that can allow the top three to play freely.
MS Dhoni, no longer an impact batsman in the end overs, will be almost 39 in 2019. Although he is up there in terms of fitness and reflexes, the selectors can’t afford not to nurture young talent and ensure he gets enough games.
Yuvraj Singh too is in his mid 30s. India need batsmen who can rally the team after early setbacks like Sunday, as well as contribute in fielding. The middle-order will be vital as only Pandya among the three allrounders – Ashwin and Jadeja the others – has been delivering with bat and ball consistently.