Middle-order In Focus As India Seek Super League Boost

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Middle-order in focus as India seek Super League boost. India are currently placed eight in the standings - a spot below their opponents West Indies.

Middle-order In Focus As India Seek Super League BoostIndia are currently placed eight in the standings - a spot below their opponents West Indies.

15 played – 5 won and 10 lost. India's progress report in ODI cricket since the start of 2020. India's rather modest record in that period does indicate from a position of sure-footed security, they have slipped a bit in the 50-over format. The other side of the argument would be that the Asian nation hasn't played enough ODI cricket in the last two years to test combinations in order to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. So in that context, India's next assignment under the leadership of Rohit Sharma – a three-match ODI series against the West Indies – gains significance.

A few days before the opening ODI in Ahmedabad, the hosts found themselves in a bit of a quagmire when Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad and net bowler Navdeep Saini tested COVID-19 positive. Despite being pegged back by these cases, the hosts have the opportunity to play with their combinations and experiment. One of the recurring themes during India's 0-3 loss in South Africa was the middle order batters struggling to find the right tempo.

In that scenario, Deepak Hooda could get an opportunity to put his hat in the ring for a middle order berth. KL Rahul, who isn't available for the opening game, could also be a key to reignite the middle order engine when he returns. Even though Rahul batted at the top of the order in South Africa, he has showcased his ability to make an impact against hit the deck pace bowling in the middle and slog overs. It is further evidenced by the point that he has played 17 of his ODIs in the middle order and has accumulated 624 runs at an average of 52 and a strike rate of over 100.

The to-do-project would also include propping up the bowling unit. India picking up only 14 wickets in total in the recently concluded ODI series in South Africa is a fair summation of how the bowling unit has bowled in the 50-over format in recent times. So the home side could look towards the promising Ravi Bishnoi to add some bite to the attack in the middle overs. Kuldeep Yadav has also returned to the squad after being laid low by a knee injury and some poor form.

In the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, the onus would be on Mohammed Siraj to shoulder the pace bowling unit. With Avesh Khan and Prasidh Krishna also in the squad, the hosts are perhaps hoping that one of them would turn out to be the ebullient energiser with hit-the-deck skills. On a side note, the match will also be a momentous occasion for India as they will be playing their 1000th ODI.

Meanwhile, the West Indies enter the series on the back of losing an ODI rubber versus Ireland. The visitors have won only 5 out of 12 matches in the World Cup Super League. Even though for the moment the West Indies sit one place above India – 7th – they have played three more matches than their counterparts. On a positive note, the T20I series victory against a rather depleted England would have boosted the confidence of Kieron Pollard and co.

Shai Hope will again be the bedrock of the batting unit while Shamarh Brooks showed some encouraging signs in the ODI rubber against Ireland. Brandon King's ability to crack shots in the arc between long-off and midwicket could unsettle the Indian bowlers. Nicholas Pooran's pyrotechnics can also hurt the home team. On the bowling side of things, the West Indies have recalled the experienced seamer Kemar Roach. Roach and the all-rounder Jason Holder would likely open the attack. Odean Smith offers the West Indies some extra pace and he hits the deck hard. The Jamaican bowling all-rounder once broke Chris Gayle's bat into two in the CPL. Among the spinners, Akeal Hosein's deceptive arm ball could come in handy.

When: Sunday, February 6, 2022, 1.30 PM local time

Where: Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad

What to expect: The ground has six red soil pitches and five black soil pitches. In the T20I series played against England last year, a mix of pitches were used. For instance, in the first T20I of the series, black soil pitch was used. However, as there was also a good covering of grass, it helped the seamers. In the second game, another black soil pitch was used but with less grass cover. In the third match of that rubber, the colour of the soil was red and a decent covering of grass was left. As a result, the England seamers in particular enjoyed the conditions.

So how the pitch would play could come down to the nature of the soil (alongside the amount of grass cover.)

Team News:

India: As Rohit said in the presser, “Ishan Kishan is the only option we have and he will open”. Meanwhile, Mayank Agarwal, who has been added to the squad, still has to finish his quarantine, while Tamil Nadu's destructive finisher Shahrukh Khan also has been added to the squad. India would perhaps ease Kuldeep back into the mix. Meanwhile, Deepak Hooda could earn his ODI cap.

Possible XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda/Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal and Prasidh Krishna.

West Indies: The visitors could open the batting with Brandon King alongside the established Shai Hope. The returning Darren Bravo could make it to the playing XI. Meanwhile, Akeal Hosein and Hayden Walsh Jr. are set to be the two spinners.

Possible XI: Brandon King, Shai Hope (wk), Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard (c), Jason Holder, Odean Smith/Alzarri Joseph, Hayden Walsh, Akeal Hosein and Kemar Roach

What they said:

“When Virat was the captain, I was the vice captain, we pretty much went about the team in a similar fashion. I just have take it from where he left. The team pretty much knows what is expected of them… talking about the individuals. We want to continue the same template. There is not much we want to change, we have a good team, we have good players. Just that in certain situations… there will be situations presented in front of us, where we have to change our game a little bit… it is just that adaptability and being open to different things at different points we have spoken of,” Rohit on taking over the mantle of leading the side.

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