Virat Kohli’s form hiding India’s flaws, depriving reality checks

Virat’s batting records hiding India’s batting flops

Virat Kohli’s recent knock of 154* took India to a 2-1 ODI series lead over New Zealand. Virat scored 53% of the team total at Mohali. In this series, so far, he averages an astronomical 248 runs. He has scored 34% of his team’s runs. In the two winning causes, he has scored 50% of his team’s runs. While each such knock is putting Virat up there amongst the ODI batting legends of the game, it’s working to India’s detriment on the whole and hiding a flawed batting line up.

Not just for this series. Over the last twelve months Virat has scored 26% of India’s ODI runs, 32% of India’s T20 international runs and 33% of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s runs in IPL 2016. Since we are discussing Virat’s impact on the national team, lets keep, his small matter of 973 IPL 2016 runs out. That leaves us with Virat scoring 30% of the teams runs over the past year in T20s and ODIs. If you factor in winning causes, Virat’s contribution rises up by further 13% – ie nett of 34% of teams totals.

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India’s bowling lineup now has options and getting well tested. Not so the batting. 
The objective of bilateral series

Which brings me to the question, what are the other batsmen doing and when will they be putting their hand up? And if Virat keeps playing like this, we are depriving him of rest -before the upcoming high-profile India England test series, and also depriving our upcoming batsmen any chance of getting serious runs now.

The objective of meaningless bilateral ODI series should be to prepare the newbies for the future and sterner tests ahead. Frankly, the loss to New Zealand at Delhi, last week gave more warmth to the heart than the two wins inspired by ‘Virat Kohli and the bowlers’. Kedar Jadhav’s under pressure 41, Hardik Pandya’s 36 and even Umesh Yadav’s 18 off 23 balls while trying to win a game against a tough team gave more hope for the future. At least our middle order can try standing up, once the top order fail.

Ideal ODI batting lineup

In modern ODIs, with average scores of 300 and teams packing seven batsman (including all rounders) at the minimum, your top four must have averages like 45 off 50 balls and your next three batsmen must have averages like 35 off 30 balls. Only then can a team consistently rack up 300 scores. Where does our batting lineup stand?

Dhawan and Rohit average in early 40s with strike rate of 90% and Kohli and Dhoni average above 50. These four should be our top four with Rahul as backup. Next comes Manish Pandey who currently averages 62 at 99% strike rate. They six players compulsorily need to be in the squad. Jadhav and Pandya hold enough early promise and all round ability to compete for the next two slots. But are we giving them adequate match exposure?

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Rahane is India’s best test batsmen but should be dropped from ODIs
Raha-ne de Ajinkya

Ajinkya Rahane is opening the batting as Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul are injured. After 70 ODIs, Rahane averages lowest and slowest amongst the current seven batsmen playing the New Zealand home series. Yes, his batting average of 32.71 at strike rate less than 80%, is worse than newbies Pandya (36 at 112%) or Jadhav (49 at 106%).

The ICC Champions trophy starts in just over eight months time and I just don’t see where Rahane will fit in. Just over a year ago, captain MS Dhoni had mentioned “Ajinkya Rahane will either bat in top three or not play at all” – clear reference to ‘Jinks’ limited ability to accelerate.

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Manish Pandey
Rahane’s current average is same as Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal’s and not remotely close to what other openers at the Champions Trophy – De Kock, Amla, Jason Roy, Guptill et all bring to the table. Hence it makes little sense persisting with Rahane when we can give additional game time to the Manish Pandeys, Mandeep Singhs, Hardik Pandyas and Kedar Jadhavs.

MS Dhoni must bat up – The Untold Story

Captain MS Dhoni’s ODI batting average the past 24 months is hovering around 33 at a strike rate of 92%. While his career strike rate hovers around that number, the batting average of the game’s best finisher is rapidly dipping – from 53+ to now at 51. Batting lower the order isn’t coming as easy to him. His all-round skills, though, make him indispensable – he dug out Kedar Jadhav the bowler from nowhere!!; stumping still at six sigma levels; backs a promising and exciting Pandya and stays captain cool always. Hence India will be better served if Dhoni bats up the order.

At two down, just as he did at Mohali, he has option to play a steady knock, again like at Mohali. Additionally, with the pressure off him to finish every game with tailenders, he may just be able to find back his free scoring batting once again. It’s time he lets the younger generation take up the finishing job. We have to dig out the next ‘Yuvraj Singh’ like this only.

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Dhoni’s exceptional eye for talent dug our Kedar Jadhav the part timer. Jadhav now has more international wickets than domestic!
Not Raina for sure

That finisher cannot be Suresh Raina. Despite nearing twelve years since he made his debut, Suresh Raina hasn’t evolved ever to the next Yuvraj Singh level, Or even the next ‘steady Rahul Dravid’ in ODI level. Raina’s average against quality opposition (Australia, England, South Africa) over the last two years is below the 20 mark! And really, his runs now seem to come only under a certain fixed pattern. Raina should be in the squad, for his all round skills, and as cover for injuries, but truly it would be more for lack of alternatives, should we continue to not give chances to our upcoming players.

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Pandya is exciting and needs more exposure in the big stage
Batting lineup for last two ODIs vs NZ

India should immediately look at resting Virat Kohli and dropping Ajinkya Rahane for the upcoming two ODIs. Make no mistake Rahane is our leading test player and he (and Virat) deserve some rest and preparation time before the England series starts. The selectors have been spot on resting Shami, Jadeja and Ashwin before England come calling.

The batting XI then for the upcoming ODIs at Vizag and Ranchi should include Mandeep Singh to come one down or open (should Dhawan or Rahul not recover from injuries), followed by MS Dhoni (at his new permanent two down slot), Manish Pandey (at his permanent three down slot), Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya. In case Dhawan or Rahul are not yet fit, then Raina could be included in the one down slot. Never mind even if India lose the next two games, the more important thing is to give material chances to all the batsmen and see if they deserve the India jersey.

This article was also published in SportsKeeda.

 

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