India’s Asia Cup debacle and boxes they must tick before T20 World Cup

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India’s recent failure in Asia Cup has raised many questions regarding their preparation for the upcoming T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia from October 16 onwards. Ravindra Jadeja’s unavailability has stung them but there are many other things to be worked upon by team management.

Before the start of the Asia Cup 2022, India were considered to be favourites to win the title. Many of the former cricketers were of the opinion that the India-Pakistan final will be on cards. India have been a dominant force in the tournament so far winning seven trophies so far. Also, they entered the tournament after winning the away series against England and West Indies. However, things went horribly wrong for India in the ongoing edition as they were knocked out of the super four stages.

India started well by winning a couple of matches at the start but lost against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the super four which ensured their early exit from the tournament. Virat Kohli’s form and Arshdeep Singh bowling well at the death have been positives for men in blue but the debacle in Asia Cup has exposed a lot of gaps to fill in ahead of the T20 World Cup. Both the defeats include a similar kind of pattern including last-over defeats, death-overs mishaps, middle-order meltdowns, and below-par totals. 

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Ravindra Jadeja’s knee injury was the biggest setback for the team and that hampered them the most. But, the team selection after that was quite difficult to understand from captain Rohit Sharma. Jadeja’s absence hurt the balance of the team and that put team in trouble. Axar Patel was called in as his replacement but didn’t get an opportunity in playing XI. Team management backed Rishabh Pant to counter spin in middle overs but he wasn’t convincing against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Pant has been consistently backed by the team management but hasn’t been able to live up to his potential in white-ball. He has scored just 934 runs in 51 T20I innings at 23.95 and a strike rate of 126.39. He managed to score only 14 and 17 in the crucial matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively. 

Also, the team played Deepak Hooda over Dinesh Karthik in the last few games but the move wasn’t very fruitful. In spite of the fact that Hooda has been successful mostly while batting in the top order, he was sent to bat as a finisher. Also, he was supposed to provide an extra bowling option to the team but didn’t bowl. That restricted the team to only five bowling options and the bowling unit also looked weak against both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This raises the question that why Dinesh Karthik wasn’t given an opportunity in the lineup. 

Karthik has been phenomenal in the lower order for India since IPL 2022. He was supposed to perform the finishing role for India but this strange selection casts doubt over Karthik’s role in the World Cup. Karthik has scored 182 runs from 10 T20I innings at 45.50 and a strike rate of 165.45. His finishing duties have been phenomenal and so there is no reason to bench him from the squad. The only solution to Ravindra Jadeja’s unavailability would have been to bring in Axar Patel as a like-for-like replacement. Axar will provide a bowling option and so the team will have six bowlers on their side. Also, he has shown his batting skills and will add depth to the batting unit. 

Pant hasn’t been impressive in white-ball cricket and so preferring Dinesh Karthik over him might be the way going forward. Karthik doesn’t have much fuel in his tank and might hand his boots in coming years but is at his finishing best currently. So, playing Axar in place of Jadeja and preferring Karthik over Pant might be the best bet. 

In case the Indian team wants to still back Pant, they can bench KL Rahul. However, Rahul must be given a long run before that as he has recently returned from the injury but if he still wouldn’t be able to increase the strike rate it would be troublesome. Overall, the batting department is following a template necessary in the modern era and either Jadeja or Axar would play a vital role with their all-round skills.

The Asia Cup debacle also exposed the vulnerabilities in the bowling department. Nothing hurt the Indian team more than Jasprit Bumrah’s injury. They played the first few games with the pace trio of Avesh Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Arshdeep Singh. However, when Avesh was ruled out, Hardik Pandya was the third seamer for the Indian team in matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These two matches have shown that Hardik cannot be used as a four-over bowler in each game. He managed to pick just a single wicket and also conceded runs. 

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was superb with the new ball in all matches but his bowling in death overs faltered against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He conceded too many runs in death overs in crunch situations and that displayed the need for Jasprit Bumrah in this line-up. He is not very rapid and the lack of swing on offer in Australia might be troublesome for Bhuvneshwar unless he makes some changes to his bowling before flying to Australia.

Also, Mohammed Shami not even in consideration by selectors has been quite surprising. Shami’s overall economy in T20Is might alarm ringing bells but he has the capability to trouble batters with his seam movement. He picked 20 wickets in IPL 2022 and played a crucial role for Gujarat Titans in their title run. The return of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel might make the situation better but India has to work on defending a total as they have often failed to do so in tough situations. 

Overall, there are many things to work for the Indian team with less time for T20 World Cup but the biggest hole can be caused if Jadeja doesn’t play in the tournament. Axar Patel should take his place in that case and also KL Rahul needs to pace his innings at a better strike rate in upcoming games or else India can opt for another opening combination.

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