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Bowling, Experience India’s biggest challenge for World Cup 2015 defence

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Not many surprises found its place in a script that selectors wrote for the World Cup down under. As India enter cricket’s battle royale, trying to defend the trophy, the challenge to the batting order will be huge. Add inexperience to the woes, considering 11 out of 15 selected have never played a World Cup, and for a majority this would also be their first tour to possibly the toughest cricketing country.

For a refresher here is the team selected: MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, all-rounder Stuart Binny pacers Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav; and spinners R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Akshar Patel.

There is no doubt India will enter the tournament as a strong contender for defending the tournament. The team has done exceptionally well in the 50-over format of the game and will be expected to carry on Down Under. A look at the top order will also instill in you a sense of belief that the team can work. Its not until you reach the last seven names that worry will start taking its toll. Add to the fact that India’s performance in limited over internationals in Australia has never been great sans the one VB series win a few years back.

Lets also look at some numbers to analyse how India has done after the World Cup win last time. The team with multiple changes has played 95 ODI’s and has done substantially well, winning 57 of them. That is a good 60% win rate. The problem though is not there. The problem lies in its performance Down Under and spoken above.

If we look at our record in Australia and New Zealand post the year 2000, the story changes towards bad. Having played 53 ODI’s, the team has been able to win only 19 and has lost 29 of them. A bunch of these wins came in the VB series that Dhoni lifted in 2008, possibly Indian cricket’s biggest moment down under in no less than two and a half decades.

Experience Woes: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain will be the most experienced of the Indian defence campaign. He has played 27 matches Down Under and with an impressive average of 67, has scored 1088 runs in LOI’s. His deputy and now India’s Test captain Virat Kohli is the second most experienced cricketer in those condition, having made 664 runs in 13 outings, again at an impressive average of 55 odd. But that is it. Apart from the two, India won’t have much pre-information and experience Down Under. The tri-series is going to be litmus test for most first timers in Australia.

Bowling Worries: If experience is a concern, bowling is a huge worry. The Indian bowling attack has just not done anything impressive in the last calnder year and all wins have possibly come courtesy the strong batting line-up or because of home condition advantage. In Australia though putting a lot of pressure on the batting will not work all the time. If India need to come anywhere close to defending the coveted trophy, they will have to bowl well and that will be concern number one in Dhoni’s mind.

The bowling will be lead by Ishant Sharma who has impressed Down Under. His average there is impressive at 27 with a best of 4/38. His biggest problem and that to me is the problem for Indian bowlers is discipline. We have seen how Indian pacers have sprayed the leather all around without any remorse in the on-going Test series. The problem is that the young pacers of the likes of Shami and Umesh Yadav, selected for the World Cup are also not learning from their mistakes and are throwing it all around day after day. To talk of stats all Indian bowlers thus far in Australia have averaged at least 45 per wicket. Today Shami picked up the first fifer for an Indian bowler in the series. Even the spinners have failed to put up any impression, even on the inexperienced batsmen in the Australian line-up.

Though I understand the format is different but discipline will be key. Our batting does give an impression that they love chasing down targets, still chasing 325 match after match will be tough ask to even for the best batsmen in the world.

Overall, I won’t say the team does not have a realistic chance to win. They do will present huge competition to all big teams, of the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa but to win you require everyone firing from all cyliners and I am a tad cynical considering the bowling is nowhere close to a World Cup winning unit.

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