1. The middle-order
The performance of India’s middle-order has been inversely proportional to that of its top three in the tournament so far.
While Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have produced the kind of consistency that is generally expected of them (with 647 and 442 runs respectively), KL Rahul—who was promoted up the order after Shikhar Dhawan’s forced exit from the tournament owing to a left thumb fracture—is gradually coming into his own, as is evident from his measured 92-ball 77 against Bangladesh in Birmingham and his 118-ball 111 against Sri Lanka at Headingley.
The Indian middle-order batsmen, on the other hand, have performed sporadically, and on more occasions than one, have struggled to capitalise on the platform laid by the top-order batsmen. As many as three batsmen have been tried at number four, but India has yet to find a satisfactory solution to their ‘number four’ conundrum.
While Rishabh Pant has shown promise in the limited opportunities he has received in his brief ODI career, he is still fairly unexposed to the pressure and challenge of a World Cup knockout game.
M.S. Dhoni’s tally of 223 runs from eight matches at an average of 44.60 and a strike-rate of 93.30 may not make for poor reading, but questions have been raised over his inability to shift gears at the back-end of the Indian innings, when scoring at 8-9 runs per over at the death is the norm of the day.
With Kedar Jadhav having struggled to hit the big shots and Dhoni grappling to rotate the strike against the spinners in the middle overs, the pressure of accelerating from one end has often got the better of Hardik Pandya, who has looked in good touch at this World Cup.
It remains to be seen if Pant, Dhoni, Pandya and Dinesh Karthik (who was brought into the side in place of Kedar Jadhav in the Bangladesh game) manage to bat sensibly and provide the finishing thrust necessary to post a big total in the crucial knockout stage of the tournament.