India have won 40 out of the 62 ODIs they have played since World Cup 2015, thus maintaining an excellent win-loss ratio of 1.904. One of the main reasons behind such a fabulous record has been the success of India’s top order (positions 1-3).
They have accounted for 62.17 percent of the total runs (9,541 out of 15,347 runs) that India have scored in this time-frame at a mammoth average of 60.00 and strike rate of 93.15. If we consider the runs scored by the trio of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan alone, the average shoots further up to 63.25 and the strike-rate to 97.84.
None of the top ten teams have possessed a top order with figures better than India’s in this time frame. Only England have bettered them in terms of strike-rate (98.83). But they are still way behind India in terms of the percentage of total runs scored (48.71) and average (46.82).
However, India’s recent ODI series loss to England by a margin of 2-1 after being 1-0 up in the series presented a different case. The last two ODIs of the series revealed how fragile India’s middle-order is as it failed to deliver when the top-order’s chips were down. The success of the top three and consequent results in India’s favour have continuously masked this major problem in their batting unit all this while.
They have accounted for just 33.68 percent of the total runs scored by India since World Cup 2015. It is the lowest among the top 10 ranked ODI teams for runs scored since World Cup 2015.
While that might seem largely due to the success their top-order has enjoyed, further analysis will reveal that there is a lot more to that than what meets the eye.
The Indian middle-order (Numbers 4-7) has averaged 34.93 with an overall aggregate of 5,170 runs in 62 matches at a strike rate of 92.07 since World Cup 2015. The same from five other teams have scored more runs than India’s and three even have better averages than them.
Moreover, the fact that their average of 34.93 has been further boosted by 43 not outs among the 191 innings, gives an idea that they have not been as efficient as the batting average suggests.
Even Pakistan and South Africa (with 41 not outs each) have averages better than India. They have almost played equal number of innings – 185 and 187 respectively. India have the second-highest number of not outs, next only to England who have 47 but in 245 innings, which is 54 innings more than that of India’s. So, the middle order of three of the top five ranked ODI teams clearly beat that of India’s in terms of efficiency.
If their inefficiency is not enough for a proof, the argument can be further strengthened by the number of 100s and 50s their middle order has accounted for.
The Indian middle-order has scored the second-lowest number of 50s and 100s among the top five ODI teams. That sums up how they have failed to churn up impactful knocks. Pakistan’s middle-order has 14 more fifties and South Africa has 3 more centuries than that of India’s.
Another way to judge their ineffectiveness is to analyse their contributions on the basis of their top-order performances. We will consider two conditions here.
1) When top-order performed well
Whenever the top-order performs well, India generally win the match. Still there have been certain instances when they have lost even after a good performance from the top-order batsmen and a significant acceleration from the middle-order.
That is because the middle-order hasn’t scored enough runs despite accelerating, thus leading to the ineffectiveness once again. The above table shows six such instances when the top-order notched up 150+ scores. While the middle-order accelerated in four of those, they crumbled twice failing to keep up the good work of the top-order.
As far as chasing is concerned, there have been three instances when the top-order has notched up 150+ scores but the middle order has failed to finish the job off each time, with the run-rate dipping during their stay at the crease. So, that shows how the middle order hasn’t been the best in reacting to run-chases despite help from the top-order.
II) When top-order hasn’t performed well
The above table suggests that there have been 12 instances when the Indian top-order hasn’t performed well and India have hence lost the match. Analysing their contributions and the overs played by them suggests that it gave the middle-order plenty of time to prove their mettle out in the middle. Still the middle-order could only outclass the top-order on just one instance (vs England at Kolkata on 22 Jan 2017) when they scored 216 runs at a healthy run-rate of 6.15. However, India still went on to lose the match as they couldn’t maintain the required run-rate.
The middle-order contribution in the Champions Trophy Final at Lord’s against Pakistan also suggests that the middle order did pretty well as compared to the top-order. But those 111 runs were bolstered by Hardik Pandya’s blitzkrieg of 76 runs. India still went on to lose the match by a mammoth margin. So, the middle-order failed to stick around on 11 out of the 12 occasions in which the top-order has failed to deliver.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @Prosen02. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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