CWC'19: 3 things to look forward to in the warm-up fixtures

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CWC'19: 3 things to look forward to in the warm-up fixtures

25 May 2019 164 Views Yash Mittal

India will kickstart their preparations for their World Cup campaign when they take on the Kiwis in the first warm-up fixture at Kensington Oval on Saturday. So, with plenty of permutations and combinations hovering around the make-up of the playing 111, we at the Bharat Army delve on the three things to look forward to in the warm-up fixtures.


Who'll bat at No.4 against South Africa?

kl rahul vijay shankar

In Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Rohit, Sharma, India have a top-3 on-course with the legendary trios like Hayden-Gilchrist-Ponting or Tendulkar-Sehwag-Gambhir but it is the No.4 spot that has proved to their Achilles heel. Chief Selector MSK Prasad and skipper Virat Kohli reckoned Vijay Shankar's 3-D abilities went in his favor when it came to his selection over Ambati Rayudu.

But with Shankar suffering an injury in his left hand, will he start at the No.4 spot in the sides' dress-rehearsal against the Kiwis? Or will KL Rahul slot-in in the middle-order? If the latter turns out to be true it will be a huge opportunity for the Karnataka batsman to stake his claim in the middle-order and shrug the moniker of being a reserve-opener to Shikhar and Dhawan.

The warm-up fixtures in the past have often helped players and sides' struggling with their form and combinations. Think back to the start of the 2013 Champions Trophy which the Men in Blue eventually won. Rohit Sharma was nowhere in the frame for the opening spot and it was the failure of Murali Vijay in the warm-up fixtures against Australia and Sri Lanka which paved the way for the union of what is now one of the most potent opening combinations in the history of ODI cricket.

A similar case was with Dinesh Karthik, who scored a truckload of runs in the warm-up games, to nail his spot down in the middle-order. Whatever happens in these two games, one thing is for clear, we will get an idea as to who will bat at the No.4 spot in the Men in Blue's tournament opener against the Proteas on June 5th.

 

Shami + Bumrah or Bhuvi + Bumrah?

shami bhuvi


I12 months ago, there would have been no debate as to who will open the bowling for Team India in the 2019 World Cup; Bhuvneshwar Kumar along with Jasprit Bumrah would have been the de-facto choice.

But, Bhuvneshwar's injuries plus a subsequent dip-in-form coupled with Shami's rise in stock thanks to his improved fitness and temperament in the past seven-eight months, have put the Bengal bowler back into the reckoning.

Ever since making his return to the ODI set-up last October, Shami has taken 22 wickets in 13 games and the most striking part as evident from his numbers has been the ability to pick up wickets for the side at the start as well as at the back-end. Shami's rhythmic run-up coupled with his immaculate line and lengths was on full show in the IPL as well.

While Bhuvi- one of the stalwarts of T20 and IPL cricket- struggled as evident by his average of 35.46 and 13 wickets, Shami emerged as the leader of the pack for the Capitals' along with Kagiso Rabada. The Bengal fast bowler claimed 19 wickets in 14 games at an average of 24. India's team's dynamics are such that either of Shami or Bhuvi can play in the playing 11 with Bumrah being the second seamer, it will be really interesting to see whether Kohli goes with Bhuvi at the top or whether Shami is given a nod owing to his good run-of-form.

 

Kuldeep + Chahal or Jadeja + Chahal/Kuldeep?

kuldeep chahal jadeja

Again, if we had been talking a year ago, it would have been a no brainer that Kuldeep and Chahal will form a wrist-spin duo and will be India's X-factors at the World Cup. They still are the X-factors but Hardik Pandya' fragile back and the lack of potency with the bat in the lower-order brought Ravindra Jadeja back into the contention.

jadeja

That happened during the Asia Cup. Since then, India has opted to play Jadeja and one out of Chahal and Kuldeep, and we have seen how the side has struggled to get wickets in the middle overs. Kuldeep and Chahal thrive on each other's success and have taken 100-plus wickets while playing in tandem. In fact, India's success post the 2017 Champions Trophy-, especially in South Africa- was built around the duo's ability to pick up wickets in the middle overs.

Since the 2017 Champions Trophy, Kuldeep Yadav [87] and Yuzvendra Chahal [66] are the top-2 leading wicket-takers in the World. As Kohli pointed out in the Press conference, "Chahal and Kuldeep have been the two pillars of our bowling unit" while addressing Kuldeep's lean patch in the IPL, it will be interesting to see whether India's play the duo in tandem or will Jadeja form one half of the spin bowling unit.

Yash Mittal

Bharat Army Cricket Writer

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