World Cup 2019: 3 Indian Players for whom time is running out

C. Namasivayam

Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli - Lot of tough decisions to make before the World Cup

The India-West Indies One Day series is upon us. West Indies are a different team in white ball cricket and hence unlike the Test series, the one-day series is expected to generate a lot of interest and following.

With hardly 8 months to go for the World Cup, teams are in the process of narrowing down their options and arriving at the best combination. The one-day series of 5 matches is a good opportunity for both India and the West Indies to identify the players who are good enough to last the distance.

In that context, the forthcoming one-day series against the West Indies assumes supreme importance for 3 Indian players to press their claim, failing which they will be left high and dry.

Here is the list of those 3 Indian players for whom time is running out.

#1 Manish Pandey

Manish Pandey - it is now or never

Matches – 23-Runs – 440- Avg – 37- 100s – 1 -50s – 2

Manish Pandey was a product of the IPL. He was the first Indian to score a hundred in IPL which brought him to the national limelight.

Manish Pandey’s international career started on a high when he scored 71 in his first one-day match against Zimbabwe. He followed that up with an unbeaten match-winning century against Australia in Sydney. When everyone thought India had unearthed a match winner, Pandey’s next six innings produced just 80 runs. As a result, he was dropped from the team after the New Zealand series at home in October’ 2016.

Pandey had to wait for the next 10 months to get another opportunity to play against Sri Lanka at Colombo. On his comeback, Manish Pandey scored a 50 not out and 36. Thereafter, it was a downslide yet again with scores of 0,3, 36 not out, 33, 11 not out, 2 and 8 in his last 7 one day innings. To be fair to Manish Pandey, he didn’t get continuous opportunities but when he did get one, he failed to deliver.

Manish Pandey has been inconsistent all through his career. The insecurity factor has always played on his mind. Manish played for under-19 alongside Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja. But while their careers took off, Pandey has been in and out of the Indian One-Day team.

At times, one is led to believe that Manish Pandey is in the One-Day team on the basis of his performances in the T20 internationals and IPL.  Pandey is a brilliant fielder but he doesn’t bowl which reduces his utility value to the team.

The absence of Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav in the present Indian squad should infuse a sense of safety in Manish Pandey which should inspire him to do better against the West Indies.

For starters, Manish Pandey should score at least a 50 in the first two one day matches to get retained for the rest of the series and deal with it from there.

Manish Pandey is under immense pressure to perform right away in the limited opportunity he is likely to get. It is now or never for him.

#2 KL Rahul

K.L. Rahul's role undefined. Uncertain times ahead

Matches – 13 – Runs – 317- Avg – 35 – 100s – 1- 50s -2

K.L. Rahul’s One-Day career started with a bang with scores of 100 not out, 33 and 63 not out against Zimbabwe. However, Rahul slowed down thereafter and had a total of just 61 runs in the next 8 matches.

In the Asia Cup, when Rahul got an opportunity to play against Afghanistan, he scored a brilliant 60 off 66 balls with 5 fours and one six. But this match was more remembered for Rahul’s injudicious employ of the DRS which very nearly cost India the match.

Rahul’s position in the India squad is really precarious. He is basically an opening batsman who would not be of use if employed below the number 3 batting position. But India’s first 3 batting positions are firmly set and the team would be better off with an additional middle-order batsman rather than a reserve opener.

To make matters worse for Rahul, the advent of Prithvi Shaw is an additional option which the team management could wish to explore in the near future. Besides, Rahul is not in the best of forms and his confidence is at the lowest ebb.

Unlike Manish Pandey, KL Rahul is not sure whether he will get an opportunity at all to prove himself in the West Indies series. This would make it all the more difficult for Rahul to concentrate and perform if given a chance. Tough and uncertain times ahead of Rahul.

#3 M.S. Dhoni

M.S. Dhoni facing tough times

This is one name most of the Indian fans wouldn’t want to see on this list. But things have changed dramatically for the worse for Dhoni in the last couple of months. So much so that Dhoni is now a doubtful starter for the World Cup.

There is no doubt in any one’s mind that Dhoni is the best wicket-keeper the country has ever produced. It is his ever-reliable finishing batting skills which deserted him at the most inopportune time with the World Cup fast approaching. It has now reached a stage where Dhoni’s wicket-keeping and DRS skills alone won’t help him to retain his place in the team.

Dhoni must fire with the bat immediately to survive the onslaught of his detractors who are calling for his head. It is really a pathetic sight for the Indian fans to watch Dhoni prodding and scratching on the batting crease.

In the last 10 one-day innings, Dhoni has scored 225 runs at a poor average of 28. His 225 runs came off 334 balls at a strike rate of 67. This is against his career average of 50 and career strike rate of 88. This is where exactly the problem lies with Dhoni. In recent times, Dhoni is unable to score runs quickly, rotate strike and to finish off matches. Even his body language at the batting crease is not positive.

The earlier remarks made by Dhoni against ageing veterans who were at the fag end of their careers has now come back to haunt him. Now Dhoni is in a similar situation and is unable to react to it. The team management on its part has been very kind to Dhoni. They even promoted Dhoni to Nunmber 4 position to allow him to settle down and play more number of balls. But Dhoni failed to respond and didn’t score even a single 50 in his last 10 innings.

The induction of Rishabh Pant into the One-Day squad has complicated matters further for Dhoni. It is now perform or perish for the former skipper. He has to somehow reinvent his batting form immediately to save his career. Perhaps a dare-devil approach might help Dhoni in reinventing his old batting form.

The team management is also wary of dropping Dhoni from the team before the World Cup. Imagine the backlash they would be subjected to in case of any reverse in the World Cup in the absence of Dhoni.

While the whole world watches in anticipation, it is now up to Dhoni to have a final heave at his career. It is now time for the gloveman to hit out or get out.