India's unsettled middle order needs work before 2019 World Cup
India's middle order faced a reality check against Afghanistan as they failed to pull off a victory. The openers did a fantastic job to stitch a 110-run stand, but Rahul's wicket opened the floodgates. The match, once again, exposed the frailties of India's middle-order. If India need to challenge for the 2019 World Cup title, they need to resolve this issue. Here we decode.
Indian openers have acted as a shield
Time and again, the Indian openers have acted as a shield and won matches for Men in Blue. In the Asia Cup as well, both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan rose up to the challenge and took charge. This is the reason, the wins came easy for India. Against Afghanistan, KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu did good work but couldn't finish off the game.
Kohli has been putting in a shift at number three
Virat Kohli has scored runs aplenty ever since he took over captaincy. He has delivering consistent performances alongside Rohit and Dhawan. The top three played a defining role in South Africa this year. Against England in T20Is, they came out strong. Going into the World Cup next year, the onus will be on the trio. But what if they fail to get the runs?
India's middle order failure was highlighted in England
The major issue for India lies post the heroics of top three. A major reason why India lost the ODIs against England is because of the weak middle order. Suresh Raina was tried against the Three Lions. But the southpaw failed and was axed. The middle order didn't do its job in the series and it cost the side.
Plenty of questions for Team India
India don't know their ideal Playing XI till now. Kohli needs to find the answer of who fits in and where. Further, the batting unit, except top 3, doesn't look lethal. No new player has been able to cement his place. There is a sense of relief with Rayudu in the squad, but his position isn't settled. Also who is the finisher?
MS Dhoni's position in the line-up needs work
What is Dhoni's ideal position? This is a serious question, since veteran Dhoni's runs have dried up. He, no longer, has the ability to finish off games. So should he be promoted up the order? With Kohli at number three and Rayudu (probably) at four, the slots are filled. So MSD is likely to fit in at number 5. But can he provide solidity?
Who can act as a finisher?
Can Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya become the finishers India want? Can they deliver the goods consistently leading up to the World Cup? If yes, then the team needs to back them. This means DK will have to sit out. With World Cup less than 12 months away, there's no time to experiment. Instead, Kohli and Shastri should work towards freezing playing XI.