Bangladesh v India, Asia Cup, Fatullah February 25, 2014

India batting thin on experience

Karthik Krishnaswamy in Dhaka
The absence of MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina means India will go into the Asia Cup with an inexperienced middle order for the first time in a long time

Towards the middle of India's training session on Monday, the team's media manager carried a life-size foam dummy into the open net at the middle of the National Cricket Academy ground. Running in off a short run-up, Bhuvneshwar Kumar began bowling to the dummy, designed to look like a right-handed batsman at the highest point of his backlift. Gradually, as Bhuvneshwar increased the length of his run-up, Mohammad Shami and Ishwar Pandey joined him. All of them attacked the blockhole.

While India's bowlers tried out this new method of working on an old weakness, fielding coach Trevor Penney aimed flat, hard catches at Ambati Rayudu, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Meanwhile, under a shamiana in one corner of the training area, Dinesh Karthik took his pads off.

"Who's that guy?" a local journalist asked, pointing at the batsman who had replaced Karthik at the nets.

That guy was Stuart Binny, and he might not have been the only unfamiliar figure in the team for that particular journalist. This was an India ODI team without MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. Poor form over the last year or so had cost first Yuvraj and then Raina their places. Dhoni's side strain, on top of that, had now left India needing to assemble an entirely new-look middle order for the Asia Cup. On Tuesday, when he was asked about this, Karthik said India had enough experienced players to cope.

"I've been around the scene for some time," Karthik said. "Given the opportunity, I will try and use whatever little experience I've had and bat to the best of my ability. Having said that quite a few guys have played 100 games, which is a lot of experience now. They have been playing now for a year or two. They have been given a good run. Everybody will pull in their experience whatever little that we have, go out there and give it our best shot."

Although only two members of India's squad have played 100 ODIs - Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma - it is true that most of the players in the squad have had a decent run of games over the last year. The only issue, however, is that all of the inexperience is concentrated in one area - the middle order.

Karthik has played 67 ODIs, but has played in the middle order in only 30 of them. Ajinkya Rahane has played 23 ODIs, but has batted lower than No. 3 only five times; in those five innings, he averages 11.20. Cheteshwar Pujara has played two ODIs, both as opener. Ambati Rayudu has played six ODIs, of which four were against Zimbabwe. Stuart Binny has played one ODI, and hasn't yet had a chance to bat.

Ideally, India would want three of those five - Karthik and two others - to slot in at Nos. 4, 5 and 6 when India start their Asia Cup campaign. That would leave the top three undisturbed. But that simple solution might not work in India's best interests, because the players in that group - Pujara and Rahane, certainly - aren't necessarily suited to starting their innings with less than 10 overs remaining.

It might mean either Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli having to move to No. 4. Of those two options, shifting Kohli down one spot will probably make less of a dent up the order than disturbing the opening combination. Kohli, in fact, has an even better average at No. 4 than at No. 3, and almost the same strike rate. Rohit, on the other hand, averages 44.19 as opener and 31.43 elsewhere. In any case, both of them might have to bat differently, with the knowledge that Dhoni won't be around down the order.

More might be asked of Ravindra Jadeja too. In New Zealand, he showed there is plenty of latent potential in his batting, when he cracked quickfire unbeaten 60s in successive matches. Jadeja's position in the line-up is unlikely to change for this tournament, but without Dhoni, the batting side of his role might gain extra emphasis.

It isn't easy replacing someone who's a middle-overs innings-builder, death-overs destroyer and the calmest finisher in the game, all rolled into one. India's best option of doing that might be to do it collectively.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on February 26, 2014, 18:35 GMT

    The real problem is lack of playing time. Guys like Rahane, Pujara, karthik have been around for long time & have excellent credentials as batsmen- not playing ODI for India but in different formats. Pujara & Rahane have done so well in Test matches they played that one wonders why these 2 were kept on the bench for so long. Pujara is still on Bench for the BD ODI! Karthik never gets regularly selected because of Dhoni reserves his spot in the XI as Captain/WK. The same applies to the Bowlers. Chawla ia always selected in the squad by the Selectors but his fate does not progress beyond the Bench, Why is Binny in the squad if he gets one chance as a "guest player"- No Batting + 1 over bowling! Against BD, his role is still Bench warming! How can anyone complain lack of experience when they make it to the squad only to be benched. Extra Pace bowlers in the squad never get a chance even when Dhoni refuses to take the second New Ball with dumb excuse like "his Pace Bowlers are too Tired"!

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    This is the time to experiment. India should play Binny either in place of a fast bowler or a batsman. If played instead of a batsman and he does well with the bat, then India will have another bowling option. If played instead of a fast bowler, he will need to bowl well but will add depth to batting. India lacking a left hander like Raina or Yuvraj in the middle order. Also the medium pace group doesn't have much variety.

  • ESPN on February 26, 2014, 7:14 GMT

    Rohit should go down the order to No.6 and bat freely like he does in T20 successfully Rahane should open with Dhawan. Virat, Pujara and Karthik will fit into other roles. Bowling is the only worry if Ashwin continues to fail in picking wickets then sure India is in trouble.

  • bharath on February 26, 2014, 6:49 GMT

    poor guy ishawar pandey if he debuts here in this dead flat wickets he will be smashed buy this batters he never going to play for india again Like fast bowler p awana. india miss the chance to play him in newzealand we never known who is more talented until he is given a chance but give him a chance where he deserves that chance my team would be. 1. s dhawn/rahane 2. gambhir (captain) 3. v kohli 4. saurabh tiwary 5.Dhoni 6. abishihek nayar/ Rajat batia 7.Rishi dhawn / irfan pathan 8. Ashwin 9. R. Jadeja 10. B kumar/ praveen kumar 11. Umesh yadav This team gives batting depth and lot of bowling options for the captain for the world cup.

  • Rajesh on February 26, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    Today's India XI: Dhawan,Rohit,Virat,Pujara,Rahane,Karthik,Jadeja,Ashwin,Bhuvi,Shami,Aaron. But I think Binny should be included inplace of Ashwin and Rayudu should include inplace of Karthik. Pandey Should include inplace of Aaron. Best of Luck Team India

  • Android on February 26, 2014, 6:40 GMT


  • Android on February 26, 2014, 6:37 GMT

    I think Rayudu should play. He had played some good shots in the bouncy tracks of New Zealand. He is in a decent form. He could make the middle order stronger along with Rahane, Karthik and Jadeja while Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli play in the top. The bowling is very weak. Bhuvaneshwar, Shami, Ashwin and Varun should hit the right areas to get wickets..

  • aravind on February 26, 2014, 6:24 GMT

    Open with dhawan1,rahane2 just because they do open T20 format,obvious the virat @ 3 the sheet anchor role play as long as possible,rohit 4 pushed down as over ambitious shots against pace,pujara can only fit in top 3 slots as 4th position is too littel time for a player of this kind,karthik5 because he has played 65 ODI,binny 6 should do job of dhoni he is up the order need some time in the middle,jadeja7 more as a bowling allrounder,ashwin8/9,kumar9/10,shami10/11,with 3 genuine bowlers+2bowling allrounder as an extra batsmen is added just to fill in for dhoni.considering bowling attack of pak & srilanka.

  • bharath on February 26, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    India weakness is bangladesh strength. India selectors might have tried with few medium pace allrounders like abshihek nayar, rajat batia and rishi dhawan.which are useful for next year world cup. Sending same side which losed to weak newzealand side is a big mistake mix of some young players and some senior players from ranji trophy will do the job. pujara ashwin mishra binny shami this are indians most un athletic fielders and not good runners between the wickets. they cant save runs on the field or they cant run fast between the wickets for extra runs it will hurt india. carrying mishra is a big mistake if he is there in the team he must be playing in playing XI or give chance to any young spinner atleast he can learn from the dressing room not mishra. Amit mishra is more and better than ashwin in wicket taking ability. Never ever go for piyush chawla any other spinner but not piyush.

  • Rajesh on February 26, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    @ DhairyBoghani: You seem to invest a fair bit of time into your analysis; but there is a need also to look at what has worked over the history/life-time of the game. A successful player on the international level is not necessarily selected on his FC record, and nor does a good FC record guarantee any success on the next international level. There are quite a few examples in international cricket; most notably Mark Ramprakash, & George Bailey recently (who doesn't have a good FC record, but is a success to some extent in limited overs cricket). <Br> DKarthik is another good example. He was identified even before Dhoni was, but he couldn't capitalise on the opportunities he got earlier on in his career, and Dhoni made the most of his. Pujara (with a great FC record, & success in tests) also needs to break out of his shell. He is perceived to be a slow starter (but so is Rohit S), and his running between the wickets needs to improve in today's age of cricket.

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