Team India
source: Sportstar web The Hindu

The Indian squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 to be played in India was announced by the Chairman of Selection Committee Ajit Agarkar on 5th September, 2023. Captain Rohit Sharma was also seated beside the chief selector during the announcement of the team. The squad was on expected lines with no wildcard selection that would take everyone by surprise.

While Suryakumar Yadav found a place in the team despite ordinary returns in the ODI format, wicket-keeper batter Sanju Samson was unlucky to miss out despite performing admirably well in the limited opportunities he received in the format. Tilak Varma and Prasidh Krishna who are a part of 17-member contingent for the ongoing Asia Cup are the other names to miss out from the World Cup squad.

Team India has at least three Super Four games in the Asia Cup, a three-match ODI series against Australia at home followed by couple of warm-up fixtures before embarking on their journey in a quest to win an ICC title that has eluded them for more than a decade. While the team has a lot of experience (only Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav have made their ODI debuts after CWC 2019) and looks pretty balanced, there are some factors that can be areas of concern during the World Cup. We will have a look at those factors in this article.

#Players returning from injuries and lack of games as a unit

The focus on T20I format in the previous two calendar years led to India picking second-string teams for the ODI format on numerous occasions. The Indian team has also been plagued by the injuries to its first-choice players and has had to rotate the players a lot in recent times. While Rishabh Pant met with an accident in December 2022 that has ruled him out of the World Cup, Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul have also been on the sidelines for a long duration. The trio is making a comeback in ODI format in the ongoing Asia Cup after going through their respective surgeries and rehabilitations.

India will be very keen to know how Rahul shapes up as a wicket-keeper in a 50-over game as he lends a great balance to the line-up with his secondary skillset. Jasprit Bumrah, too, will be eager to prove his readiness in a longer format after making a splendid comeback in the T20I series against Ireland where he bagged the “Player of the series” award. Shreyas Iyer, India’s Mr. Consistent in the ODI format in this cycle after the CWC 2019, looked good in the Asia Cup Group A game against Pakistan before getting out playing a crisp pull shot which went straight towards the fielder. With Ishan Kishan performing well, both as an opener and in the middle order, Shreyas will be eager to get a big score under his belt.

The above factors have meant that the team will have limited number of games together as a unit. The management will also have to ensure that the players who excelled in the absence of the first-choice players need to be given enough opportunities without disturbing the overall balance of the playing XI. Thus, striking a balance between giving returning players enough opportunities and rotating all the members of the World Cup squad will be crucial in the leadup to the mega event.

#Batting depth issues and lack of part-time bowlers

A look at the Indian team selected for the World Cup gives a clear indication that they have very few players who can provide useful contributions in their secondary skills. Four out of the five specialist bowlers picked in the team are clearly inferior in regards to their batting credentials as compared to their counterparts from other nations. To make up for the lack of batting prowess of the tail, India is forced to play a decent batter in Shardul Thakur at No.8 (not that Shardul is a bad bowler, but his selection in the XI is more because of his secondary skillset than the primary one). In spin-friendly conditions, they have the option of playing a spin all-rounder Axar Patel instead of Thakur.

Let us have a look at the contribution from the lower order (Batting positions 8 to 11) in the cycle since the CWC 2019 in the table below.

Sri Lanka have scored the most runs and also have the most fours and sixes. England lower order has the best average among all the teams while Pakistan tail has shown a great hitting ability with a strike rate of over 100. The Indian lower order averages 15.40 which is decent, but have a low strike rate of 80.83. The lower order gets to bat mostly in the slog overs of the game unless there is a collapse. Hence, ability to score boundaries is a more important factor for the tailenders, which could be a missing link in the Indian line-up.

Here is a look at the boundary hitting abilities of various teams part of the World Cup in this cycle. From the table, we observe that Pakistan is the best team in this regard.


BP4: Balls per four, BP6: Balls per six, BPB: Balls per boundary, ABV: Average boundary value, BRR: Boundary run rate, RR: Run rate

While some Indian tailenders at least have a decent defensive game and can form partnership with recognised batter, someone like Mohammed Siraj has issues in rotating the strike as well. It was evident in the second ODI against Bangladesh in December 2022 when needing 40 runs off 18 balls, Siraj played out a maiden over thereby stranding Rohit Sharma at the other end. India scored 34 runs off the next 12 balls to lose the match by a slim margin of 5 runs. Such scenarios are a possibility at the World Cup and India cannot afford to lose games in such a manner. Thus, tail needs to work on their batting skills before the World Cup.

Another problem that India have is that none of the batters picked in the World Cup team bowl even a few overs unlike the Indian teams in the past. The lack of part-timers means that India has to play at least six bowling options including the all-rounders and cannot pick an extra batter even if the conditions are tough to bat.

#Runs scored by lower order against India in previous 12 months

In the first ODI between South Africa and Australia in the ongoing series, Australia was struggling at 113/7 chasing a target of 223. This is when Marnus Labuschagne and Ashton Agar came together and stitched an unbeaten partnership of 112 to take Australia to victory. This game again underlined the importance of batting depth and how crucial the lower order partnerships are. Here, we will have a look at how the opposition teams have fared against India after the loss of sixth wicket in all the ODI games in the past 12 months. The table is as shown below.

There are quite a few examples in the past 12 months where lower order came to the rescue for the opposition teams against India. In the first ODI against Bangladesh in December 2022, chasing a target of 187, India had reduced Bangladesh to 136/9. But, an unbeaten 51-run partnership between Mehidy Hasan Miraz (38*) and Mustafizur Rahman (10*) took Bangladesh home. The same story repeated in the next game as well. Batting first, Bangladesh was reeling at 69/6 when Mahmudullah (77) and Mehidy Hasan Miraz (100*) forged together a partnership of 148 runs which eventually propelled the Bangladesh total to 271/7. India lost this game as well falling short by mere 5 runs.

Against Sri Lanka in January too, there were a couple of games where the Sri Lankan lower order scored a lot of runs, but those runs did not have a big impact on the outcome of the match. Batting first against New Zealand at Hyderabad, India reached 349/8 thanks to a magnificent double hundred by Shubman Gill. The bowlers started off well and had New Zealand in trouble at 131/6 when Indian win looked a formality. But, a rearguard action by Michael Bracewell (140 in 78 balls) and Mitchell Santner (57 in 45 balls) brought New Zealand back into the game. Bracewell was the last man dismissed as India survived a scare to emerge triumphant by 12 runs.

From the above table, we can observe that there were instances of lower order contributions in the games versus Australia, West Indies and Nepal too.

While the Indian bowlers need to be appreciated for their good record against the top order, lower order scoring useful runs for the opposition on a regular basis should be a worrying factor for Team India leading up to the World Cup. It might as well cost them an important game in the event if the issue is not rectified.

#India’s mediocre record while chasing big totals

There is a general notion that India is a good chasing team. The Indian team also prefers chasing which can be observed from their choices after winning the toss (India have batted first 10 times while fielded first 16 times after winning the toss in this cycle after CWC 2019). But, do the numbers also prove this? Well, it is partly true. India indeed has a good record while chasing totals below 250. But, as the target increases, the numbers dwindle (which is quite natural).

The record for Team India while chasing since 1 January 2017 divided into various phases is as shown in the table below.

From the table, we observe that for targets up to 250, India has an excellent win-loss record of 31-4. The numbers change to 12-8-1 (where the third value is for a tied game) for 251 to 300 phase and further reduces to 4-8 in chases above 300.

Out of the four successful chases above 300, the first was achieved in January 2017 against England at Pune where Kedar Jadhav and Virat Kohli played marvellous knocks to take India to victory after being four down for just 63 runs chasing a mammoth target of 351. All the other three wins in 300+ chases have come against the lower-ranked West Indies team only.

All the World Cup fixtures for the Indian team will be Day-Night affairs and dew may play a big part in the second half of the games. Further the start time for the Day-Night games has been pushed from 13:30 local time to 14:00 local time which would mean dew playing a part for longer duration than it would usually. While India has a very good record while defending totals, they may be forced to opt to field first or score 30-40 runs above par score to factor in the effect of dew.

The World Cup is expected to have good batting conditions and Indian team will have to prepare well for chasing big totals. They need to plan their approach while chasing and assign the roles and responsibilities to the players properly. The team should also address the batting depth issue as mentioned above and focus on maintaining a balance between aggressive and conservative approach if they do not have a batting depth.

#Is Shubman Gill a “False Positive”?

It was July 2022. The second-string Indian contingent was on the tour of West Indies as most of the members of the T20I setup were given a break. Ruturaj Gaikwad, who was a part of the ODI team for previous three series was touted to make his ODI debut. But the team management decided to give Shubman Gill- who had not played a single List A game since November 2020- an opportunity as an opener in absence of Rohit Sharma. This move turned out to be a masterstroke as Shubman grabbed the opportunity and amassed big scores in that series as well as the following series in Zimbabwe.

This coincided with a dip in numbers of the regular opener Shikhar Dhawan and the management decided to move on from the veteran, thereby making Gill a certainty in the ODI line-up. He continued his good form in the home series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand and also became the youngest batter to reach ODI double century in Men’s cricket. The 24-year-old has scored 1465 runs at an average of 69.76 since his return with a great strike rate of 104.34 and includes four hundreds and seven fifties. He has also risen to third spot in the ICC ODI Rankings for batters.

If you look at his numbers, they look absolutely great. But, a close look at the numbers on a match-by-match basis reveals a different picture. Here is a look at innings-by-innings record of Shubman Gill since July 2022. The innings highlighted in green are against the top-ranked teams (or good bowling attacks). The series against New Zealand at home is not highlighted as the New Zealand bowling attack was second-string with the likes of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Matt Henry missing from the squad.

The disparity in Shubman’s numbers against weak and strong bowling attacks is huge. His numbers against top-ranked teams / strong bowling attacks and lower-ranked teams / weak bowling attacks is as shown below.

We can observe that both the average and strike rate take a big hit in the matches against good bowling attacks. His weakness against quality pace bowling has been evident in the other formats as well. Thus, India will want Shubman to improve his record against quality bowling line-ups as they would expect a good start from the openers in the World Cup.

Team India
source: BCCI website

(All stats till 8 September 2023)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here