In the aftermath of the thrashing at the hands of arch rivals Pakistan in the finals of the Champions Trophy 2017, a lot questions were raised. Fingers were pointed at the captain’s tactics and many were left bewildered as to how a team, that was so strong till then, just collapsed. While the loss was more of a bad day at the office than anything else, it did highlight some of the problems within the team. With the World Cup set to happen there again in a couple of years time, a few tactical tweaks are very much required to ensure that India push all the way for the title. Below, I have listed 5 major areas where I believe change is required.

Batting Order

India’s batting lineup is star studded and they bat very deep, with Jadeja coming as low as Number 8. However, for the batting unit to click, they need each player to do their parts effectively. Only if the top three give a steady start to the innings, can the middle order play their natural game. And only if this happens, can the finishers play with their aggressive attitude. Now this is not exactly a bad thing, but if the plan does not work, the whole batting unit collapses. India, for all its batting riches, lacks players who will adapt to their game to the situation at the crease. They have found suitable replacements for Sehwag, Ganguly and Sachin, but the Dravid role is a void that is yet to be completely filled. Indians mocked the Bangladesh camp for calling Yuvraj Singh the weak link in the batting lineup, but in my opinion they aren’t completely wrong. Yuvraj and Dhoni are both 35 now and as much as it breaks my heart to say this, perhaps the team isn’t big enough for both of them and one of the two will have to make way for the younger players. Rahane is someone who certainly fits the bill, but he’s been off form of late. K.L Rahul is another option, if he gets fit in time. The batting lineup is a strong one, but it hides a lot of cracks within it and with just two years left for the World Cup, a reshuffle of personnel is indeed required.

A Left Arm Pacer

Quality left arm pacers have been the X factor for many great bowling lineups in the past. Back in the 2007 T20 winning campaign, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan were performing at their peak and in the 2011 World Cup, Zaheer Khan was almost unplayable. In the current Indian squad, there are 5 pacers (including Pandya) and all of them are right armed bowlers and only Bhuvneshwar Kumar could get any purchase from the pitch. It is always better to have a variation in the bowling lineup. In England, when the pitch wasn’t offering much for the bowlers, Mohammed Amir used his natural bowling angle to generate swing to wreak havoc in the first 10 overs. Bumrah, Yadav and Shami are excellent bowlers and on their day can cause problems to any batting lineup, but I do think that a left arm pacer in the attack will add another dimension to the team and perhaps even allow the other bowlers to express themselves freely.

The Ashwin/Jadeja Conundrum

The Ashwin-Jadeja bowling partnership was on point during the Test series in India as the bowlers exploited the Subcontinent conditions to their advantage. Outside India however, their track record has not been very consistent. In the last edition of the Champions Trophy, the pair bowled magnificently well as India won the tournament. This year though, they were well below expectations. Jadeja was far too expensive and Ashwin almost always bowled a defensive line to batsman, with an intention of restricting runs rather than taking wickets. Playing the two of them together also means that there is no room for an extra seamer in the bowling attack. In the Subcontinent, this is fine. But in the flat pitches of England or Australia, they’ll just end up leaking a lot of runs. In my opinion, playing with one spinner in conditions outside India is a better option. The real question is whether to drop the all rounder, Jadeja, or the more experienced bowler, Ashwin. It all boils down to the captain’s choice of how deep he wants his team’s batting to go. If I were Kohli, I would be happy with Pandya being the last real batsman in the lineup considering he only comes in at number 7 and go with Ashwin in the team as he is a better wicket taking bowler. The World Cup 2019 will be held in England as well and India must use this Champions Trophy as a learning curve to bounce back positively.

Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya is a unique player for India. He bowls at around 140kmph, hits the ball clean and hard and fields with great conviction too. India’s defeat in the finals would have been far worse if it wasn’t for the Blitzkrieg of an innings he played before his unfortunate dismissal and he bowled decently well too. I can’t remember any player, apart from Irfan Pathan to some extent, with such capabilities in the team ever. A fast bowling all rounder is a massive boost for any team. While Pandya may not have the same markings as the mercurial Jacques Kallis, he does remind me of Andrew Flintoff, with his passion and aggressive approach to the game. While having MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav down the order ensures stability, Pandya is the one who will ensure that boundaries keep flowing. If the bowlers are having an off day, he can step up and ease the burden. Of course, he needs to improve his game a lot more, but India need to.ensure that they give him the necessary opportunities to reach his full potential and get him ready in time for the World Cup.

Lose the Favorites tag and Play without Pressure

Playing under the pressure of a nation’s expectations can be a huge burden. The Brazilian football team can testify to that. In what was expected to be their year, they had a shocker against the Germans and lost 7-1 in front of their own fans. The pressure faced by the Indian cricket team is not so different for the Indians are not a very forgiving set of fans, especially against Pakistan. It was clear from ball one of Amir’s over that the Blues were on the back foot and under massive pressure. While they deservedly carried the tags of favorites in most of the games, they still lack the confidence to try out new things over fear of failure. The difference between Sarfaraz Ahmed’s and Virat Kohli’s captaincy in the finals is proof of that. I’m not saying that they have to go back to square one, but a young team, led by a purposeful captain with only a couple of veterans can perhaps play with a lot more freedom. It’s a young team that is constantly learning and adapting. The next two years will be crucial in determining the path the team will take after the World Cup.

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