Ind vs WI 4th ODI: Middle-order must rise and shine at CCI
India are well served by their Top 3 batters, but to take a big step towards a series win, rest of the batting can't be less than impressive
Saturday's loss in the third ODI at Pune against No. 9-ranked West Indies should not only come as a shock to World No. 2 India. It should also serve as an eye-opener. Till now, the bulk of the work was carried out by the top three Indian batsmen. Such has been the dominance of openers Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Kohli, that the middle order has hardly been tested.
However, when things haven't gone as per plan for the top three batsmen, India have faltered. It happened in the second ODI at Lord's when India folded up for 236, chasing England's 322-7. It also occurred in the third ODI at Leeds when the top three failed to fire as India managed just 256-8. On Saturday, though the openers departed early, skipper Kohli struck his third consecutive century of the series. His effort was still not enough as the hosts lost by 43 runs.
Kedar Jadhav at the Brabourne nets yesterday. India will look to get their second win in the five-match series as middle-order batsman Jadhav is likely to return for the fourth ODI against West Indies. Pic/Atul Kamble
West Indies, who were not even tipped to be competitive, are suddenly looking good to upset the Indians with the five-match series placed at 1-1. Today's fourth ODI at the Brabourne Stadium will be crucial as the winning team can go into the final match at Trivandrum with sky scrapper-high confidence.
For India, their biggest concern now is to solve their middle-order frailties with just 15 ODIs left before next year's World Cup. The top three are in fine nick, but they may have off-days too and this is when the middle-order batsmen will have to put their hands up and thrive. All that Ambati Rayudu (22), Rishabh Pant (24) and MS Dhoni (7) had to do in Pune was to give Kohli (107) some company. The loss also highlighted why Team India value their two all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav so dearly.
Kohli is hopeful that Jadhav coming back for the last two ODIs will restore the balance which he missed in Pune. "When Hardik and Kedar are both okay, we'll get an extra option. Kedar comes into the side in the next game [Brabourne match]. That will give us the balance and depth in the batting. You will always drift to one side when you don't have the balance. We have to think about the perfect balance we need," Kohli said at the post-match presentation in Pune.
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