World Cup Lessons India Must Learn After Narrow Victory Over Afghanistan

By Dhanu Delphi on June 24, 2019

At the start of the 2019 World Cup, the bookmakers had England as the number one team with World Cup betting odds of (2.80). Meanwhile, cricket bettors could find Team India in second place with odds of 3. England suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka last week, though. As a result, their odds have now dropped to 3 to tie them with India.

Just as England was shocked by Sri Lanka, India came mighty close to losing their first match at the World Cup on June 22. Everyone expected India to dominate Afghanistan who had odds of (200). Surprisingly, however, it was Afghanistan that gave the Indian team their biggest test to date.

Team India Openers Play Key Role

Rohit Sharma has been in fantastic form scoring 2 centuries and has received good support from his partners S Dhawan (who is now out of the World Cup) and KL Rahul. R Sharma and KL Rahul went early against Afghanistan. That immediately put the Indian middle-order under pressure.

Captain Kohli quickly came to terms with the pace and bounce of the wicket and looked in good touch. He subsequently scored 67 runs off 63 balls. However, the rest of the middle-order struggled like they have in most games prior to the World Cup. V Shankar (29), who has taken over the number 4 spot once again, got out just as he looked set.

It was the perfect opportunity for MS Dhoni and K Jadhav to get some batting time in the middle. The two of them steadied the innings, but could not rotate the strike regularly. They also found it difficult to find the boundary. MS Dhoni has had a habit of consuming a lot of deliveries early in his innings and then trying to make up for it in the end. Dhoni got out for 28 and had a strike rate of 52.

Jadhav went on to make 52, but struggled with his timing and finished with a strike rate of 76. The Indians could only manage to get to 224, which was a very achievable score even for a team like Afghanistan.

Shami And Bumrah Take India Home

Afghanistan played intelligent cricket while they were batting and looked to form partnerships throughout their innings. They came very close to beating Team India. In fact, it was only due to some great bowling at the death by J Bumrah and M Shami that India were able to sneak home and win by 11 runs. Shami took a hat-trick in the 50th over to seal the game. Nonetheless, it was Bumrah who picked up the man of the match award for his miserly bowling at the death.

Key Lessons That Team India Must Learn

This close match with Afghanistan has exposed a number of weaknesses that India must fix quickly. Their next game is against the West Indies on June 27.

More Runs From Number 4: If V Shankar is going to fill the number 4 position, he has got to contribute more than his usual 20 runs. This is a crucial position that needs to hold the innings together and then accelerate at the death. Shankar is currently getting the nod as he can also bowl but R Pant is a more destructive batsman. India need Shankar to get his act together if he wants to keep batting at 4.

MS Dhoni’s Slow Approach: Slow and steady has been his approach when he comes in early to bat. But we have seen that it puts immense pressure on the rest of the batsmen. Especially when Dhoni gets out early after eating up so many deliveries. A strike rate of 50 when you are playing in the middle order in ODI cricket isn’t going to help India win a lot of matches!

Strengthening The Tail: While M Shami has filled in for B Kumar bowling wise, it has left India with a rather long tail. India might have to think about bringing in R Jadeja in place of K Yadav or Y Chahal to strengthen its tail against the West Indies.