The coaching staff has been given a 45-day extension but India’s batting failure has put him under scanner
Birmingham: The Indian coaching staff, including chief coach Ravi Shastri, might have been handed a 45-day extension after their contract ended with the 2019 World Cup. But the position of assistant coach Sanjay Bangar is under the scanner as certain sections within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) believes that he should have done a better job. While he is tagged assistant coach, Bangar is the de facto batting coach. The general belief is that the bowling unit under coach Bharat Arun did exceptionally well in the last year and a half while the team's fielding under R. Sridhar has also improved a lot.
But the same cannot be said of the batting unit and the fact that India failed to find a fixed number four batsman for the showpiece event hasn't gone down well with the BCCI.
Speaking to IANS, a senior BCCI official said that the constant chopping and changing in the middle-order was something that had hurt the Indian team not just in the World Cup, but over the last couple of seasons. And for Bangar to not be able to find a solution is something that reflects poorly on the coach. In fact, Bangar saying that all-rounder Vijay Shankar was fit just before he was ruled out has also been taken note of.
"It was a constant struggle," the official said. "While we are all supportive of the players and they had a good tournament with the exception of this bad day in office (in the semi-final against New Zealand), the support staff's processes and decision-making will surely be scrutinised thoroughly prior to any decision being taken about their future.
"Also, it was pretty ordinary stuff when you had Bangar stating to the Indian media contingent that every player was available for selection when Shankar was ruled out early next morning on account of an injury sustained earlier on tour. Things have been somewhat disorganised when it comes to the assessment of performances of the support staff being made by people who were keen on having select individuals continue in their positions.
"The present administration set up including the senior employees were all at sea with cricketing decisions and at the same time were ignoring the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) - comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman - completely and that's a shame," the official said.In fact, sources in the know of developments within the team have also spoken in hushed tones about how some of the batsmen have had to seek the advice of former batting stars when they have hit a rut."Without taking names, it is well documented that a couple of current team members have spoken about how they approached some of the former India batsmen to help them erase flaws in their batting when they were having issues scoring runs," the source told IANS.
What India take home
Powered by their top order's consistency and backed by sustained bowling efforts, India looked the team to beat for the most part of the World Cup. They notched up clinical wins in their first three completed games, against South Africa, Australia and Pakistan, before the bowlers overshadowed below-par batting returns against Afghanistan and West Indies.
Balanced bowling unit: India have slowly moved away from their reputation of being a batting-reliant team. The Virat Kohli-led side went into the tournament with only three frontline seam bowlers. Yet, the team management had a tough time choosing between the in-form Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to partner Jasprit Bumrah in the final XI.
Bhuvneshwar's injury presented an opportunity to Shami, who picked up 14 wickets in four matches, including a match-defining hat-trick against Afghanistan. The spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal too, barring the outing against England, made their presence felt throughout their campaign.
Formidable despite injuries: KL Rahul, who was earlier slotted in to bat at no.4, embraced the role of an opener in the absence of the injured Shikhar Dhawan, stitching three century stands with Rohit Sharma. Rishabh Pant showed promise too, replacing Vijay Shankar in the middle order.
All-rounders: Hardik Pandya's returns with both bat and ball, and Ravindra Jadeja's revival were the highlights of India's campaign. Both Pandya and Jadeja (in the two games he played) contributed handsomely with the ball, as India barely appeared a bowler short. While Hardik produced late batting fireworks in the final leg of the innings on a consistent basis, Jadeja registered one of his best-ever ODI efforts in the semi-finals, with his stroke-filled 77.
Areas to improve
India's unblemished top order almost invariably brought about match-winning results on a consistent basis. However, the vulnerable middle order rarely had a back-up plan, in case of early wickets. The batsmen rarely dominated the game once the top three were back to the hut. MS Dhoni, designated the role of holding the innings together, came in to bat at No.7 in the semi-final, surprising quite a few. As Dhoni nears the end of an illustrious career, team India will have to start looking for options beyond him, to form a solid nucleus for the middle overs.
Rishabh Pant was perhaps the most notable absentee from the initial squad. After being included in the side as a replacement, Pant might not have produced match-defining performances but has certainly demonstrated his skills as an ODI batsman. However, it was his innings in the semi-finals which, in a way, started the rescue act after a horrid start. Walking in to bat at 5/2, Pant saw two more wickets fall at the other end but showed grit and patience during his 52-ball stay.
- Baidurjo Bhose