When Jasprit Bumrah hurt his shoulder, Indian cricket fans ooh-ed, when MS Dhoni sat out a match and they aah-ed – the recently-concluded edition of the Indian Premier League was a nervous time. Not for any other reason but the league’s proximity to the all-important ICC World Cup in England and Wales.
With just an 18-day gap between IPL 2019 – that ended on 12 May – and the ICC tournament beginning on 30 May, several international cricket boards had put a curfew on their star cricketers. The BCCI, however, took no such stand, and let the players manage their own workload.
So after 52 days of intense cricket, what are the issues that crept up in the World Cup-bound Indian team?
Kuldeep Yadav & Vijay Shankar’s Woeful Form
Kuldeep Yadav’s recent form is perhaps Team India’s biggest worry at this moment. The Indian team’s first-choice spinner was dropped from Kolkata Knight Riders’ squad after a string of poor performances that included figures of 0/31, 0/32 and 0/33. The 24-year-old was literally reduced to tears after being hit for 59 runs in 4 overs against RCB – the most runs conceded by an Indian spinner in an IPL match – after which he never got another game this season.
Giving Kuldeep company is another World Cup-bound Indian cricketer – who was picked for the highly-debated No 4 slot but had a miserable IPL – Vijay Shankar.
Coming in to bat after the explosive Sunrisers’ opening duo David Warner and Jonny Bairstow, Shankar scored a 40 in their first league match. And that continued to be his highest score for the rest of the season. In 14 innings, the Tamil Nadu cricketer scored just 244 runs at a strike rate of 126.42.
Cricket experts have continued to bat for both the cricketers, ignoring their IPL form, But it would be interesting to see whether the Indian management also show the same trust in the duo and field them in the warm-up matches, and eventually in the playing eleven for their campaign openers against South Africa on 5 June.
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Kedar Jadhav’s Injury
The injury-prone Kedar Jadhav – a crucial part of India’s middle-order – was ruled out of the IPL season after picking up an injury on 5 May.
The incident took place in the 14th over of the KXIP innings when Kedar dived to his left to stop an overthrow from Ravindra Jadeja. Having hurt his shoulder in the process, Kedar immediately left the field with physio Tommy Simsek.
Barring a “wait and watch” from coach Ravi Shashtri, there hasn’t been any official update on Jadhav’s injury since. However, there have been reports saying that he will be fully fit before India’s scheduled departure of 22 May for the World Cup.
Though he didn’t have much impact in the IPL, scoring 162 runs in 12 innings and not bowling at all, Kedar has consistently been doing well in the ODI set-up and his absence will be a big blow to India’s batting and bowling departments.
Middle-Order Remains Unresolved
After months of trying out various batsmen, Chief Selector MSK Prasad announced that Shankar would be India’s No 4 batsman at the World Cup, even as captain Kohli said that the final batting order would be decided “later”.
Now with Shankar’s aforementioned form and Jadhav’s current injury, India might even be forced to rethink their line-up.
One option could be promoting MS Dhoni to the No 4 spot, where he batted for Chennai Super Kings for most of the season and finished as their highest run-scorer. KL Rahul, who was named as backup opener, could also take the number four spot, as former Indian batsman Gautam Gambhir has suggested.
Another option is Dinesh Karthik – who was named the second wicketkeeper-batsman – but he too hasn’t been among the runs.
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