The team seems to be missing a finisher who can endure high pressure on a regular basis in crunch situations. The middle-order batsmen have so far failed to inspire confidence.
Having the most potent opening combination and a bowling line-up studded with the likes of Kuldeep Yadav and Jaspreet Bumrah, not many would have thought that India and Bangladesh would manage to send down a ripper in the finals. The boys in blue were yet to lose a game and Bangladesh have had a much-challenging route to the title clash. It was supposed to be a one-sided affair. But they managed to send chills down the spine among the superior Indian team with a disciplined performance on the field and a last ball thriller.
Be it batting or fielding, they were right on the money from ball one. Man of the tournament Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed early and Rohit was handed the baton of taking India to the finishing line. Rohit Sharma was timing the ball well and when this swashbuckling batsman is on the song, no score in the cricketing world is unachievable. But the best puller (Rohit) in the team got out pulling off Rubel and finding the fielder. He departed for 48 and Indians were in for a serious trouble. The middle order was exposed once again.
In the post-match presentation, the stand-in captain said, “We played some good cricket throughout the tournament and this is the reward for hard work. We’ve put in a complete performance. We dominated the entire tournament and this is the reward.”
The statement sounded more of a fig leaf because the middle order, even in the Asia Cup series, has failed to inspire much confidence and now that the World Cup is knocking at the door, finding the right man could become a tall order for the team management. What the management has perhaps failed to realise is that middle order muddle cannot be solved by constant cutting and chopping. The aspirants need to be given more chances without having to worry about their places in the playing eleven.
As of now, the team seems to be missing a finisher who can endure high pressure on a regular basis in crunch situations. If we were to take the moral high road, we should definitely rely on the former captain MS Dhoni, but the statistics read otherwise. He begin his tournament campaign with a duck against Hong Kong but came up with the performances of 33 and 36 against Bangladesh in the Super Four match and the final, respectively. Maybe the expectations from arguably one of the best finishers in the world should be tone down but Dhoni himself must be feeling the heat as he has failed to really fire in the recent times.
The only silver lining for Dhoni, the wicket-keeper, is that he is now only behind Mark Boucher (998) and Adam Gilchrist (905) when it comes to the most number of dismissals. Liton Das became his 800th dismissal on Saturday in the finals of Asia Cup fixture.
In the series, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav and Ambati Rayudu were given sixth straight opportunity to cement their berth in the batting line-up. Jadhav seem to have grabbed the opportunity with both hands, displaying his all-round abilities with both bat and bowl. Rayudu did came up with some good performances, scoring a half-century as an opener but Karthik, despite a good start, failed to take India to the shores when the team required the most. Apart from the top order, the current batting line-up does look fragile and the big guns should step up big time and deliver.
In the bowling department, India has done fairly well. Somehow the team has found a good composition of bowlers who have a good control over their line and lengths and a knack of picking wickets. The team seems to be striking a fine balance of spinners and fast bowlers. The Bumrah-Bhuvneshwar duo forms the most dangerous combination in the death overs and the two wrist spinners – Kuldeep and Chahal – have shaped themselves into world-class bowlers. It will be a series to remember for Ravindra Jadeja, who replaced Hardik Pandya only to make a strong comeback in the ODI unit.