PARTAB RAMCHAND | 21 JUNE, 2019
World Cup 2019: India’s Bench Strength Enables Smooth Progress
Dhawan ruled out
At the moment the Indian team is whirring along like a well oiled machine. But then much the same thing can be said about England, Australia and New Zealand. And so it is no surprise that these four sides are at the top of the points table halfway through the league stage and barring some really unexpected results – and we have not seen many of these during the World Cup – the semifinalists may already have been spotted. They did all the early running, are continuing with their good form and it is on the cards that Australia, New Zealand, India and England will be the semifinalists. This is not far from the current ICC rankings which have England, India, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia as the top five.
It is not just on their standing in the points table that Australia, England, New Zealand and India are most likely to make the cut. The prediction is made on what has been seen on the field. The four teams are well ahead in matters of skill and strategy, tenacity and team personnel. They have made light of tight situations and have taken injury problems in their stride. They have provided the best cricket seen in the competition highlighted by sublime batsmanship, accurate and incisive bowling and electrifying fielding and catching.
By virtue of the fact that they are the only teams who have yet to lose a match in the competition India and New Zealand would seem to be the ones to beat. But Australia and England are too right up there and these four teams have clearly been the best on view. India’s facile win over Pakistan on Sunday is symbolic of the supremacy enjoyed by the four teams. They had lost a key player in the in-form Shikhar Dhawan but thanks to the strong bench strength they made light of this. They elevated KL Rahul to open the batting and brought in all rounder Vijay Shankar to fill the middle order slot. It all worked like a charm. Rahul got a half century and figured in a century opening partnership with Rohit Sharma while Shanker chipped in with a run a ball 15 towards the fag end of the innings and picked up two wickets with his medium pacers.
Now that Dhawan has been ruled out of the World Cup and Rishabh Pant has been included in his place there are options before the team management. Pant can either open with Rohit and Rahul can go back to the middle order. Or Pant can be slotted in the middle order while Rahul can be retained at the top. Pant’s aggressive batting and his being a left hander are important factors in favour of the Indians. Of course one cannot just drop Shankar from the playing eleven after his impressive showing against Pakistan. Which just goes to show that there is an embarrassment of riches as far as the team management is concerned.
The team will also not have Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a few games because of a hamstring injury but again they have nothing to worry about as they have a ready replacement in Mohammed Shammi. The bench strength is so strong that the team management has little to worry about. They have a precedent to go by for the triumphant 1983 squad in England too was hit by injuries. First Dilip Vengsarkar one of the pivots in the middle order was injured in the game against West Indies and he did not play again in the tournament. Then Ravi Shastri a key utility player was also injured. There was a little shuffling in the batting order, Kirti Azad was brought in and in his limited opportunities proved his worth particularly in the semifinal against England where he and Mohinder Amarnath bottled up the much vaunted batting line-up in the middle overs. India in fact won the semifinal and the final without the services of Vengsarkar and Shastri.
The present team’s bench strength is strong enough to offset any injury problems and that is one reason why it is making smooth progress. Of course the batting and bowling working in unison is another reason.