ICC 2019 World Cup: India seeks answers to a puzzle of intermediate order before a great semifinal
LEEDS: An unstable intermediate order has been a cause for concern despite the winning race and India would be desperate for people like this. Mahendra Singh Dhoni to find some form before the semifinal when they face Sri Lanka in their last preliminary World Cup clash on Saturday.
Already assured the second place and one last place in four, a victory against Sri Lanka can be won virat Kohli The men at the top of the points table provided that Australia loses their final game against the already ousted South Africa.
Therefore, they may have a lot to play with, since a pole position and a possible semi-final against a New Zealand team in a downward spiral will be more enjoyable than facing a dangerous England that is in an expansion phase.
The middle order enigma remains unsolved and it is increasingly seen that the management of the Indian team has largely depended on Plan A, which is the success of its higher order.
Second captain Rohit Sharma , with 544 runs that include record-equalling four tons, has been the stand-out player and skipper virat Kohli, with five half-centuries and 400 plus aggregate, has also had a good World Cup but perhaps not exceptional by his standards.
In this context, there can be no better opposition than Sri Lanka for Dhoni to check his bat swing in death killings when Lasith Malinga will shoot at the block hole or release his variation of slower deliveries.
Sri Lanka's off-spinner, Dhananjaya de Silva, has been quite economical, with a sub-5 in the matches he has played. If Dhoni can play more balls in the middle turns against De Silva and score some runs, it will only increase his confidence.
In all matches so far, Dhoni has achieved only 47 runs in 81 balls against the spinners, and his widely accepted weakness against the slower bowlers during the middle shifts came to the fore.
Dimuth Karunaratne may like to use his row of the left arm Milinda Siriwardana, who knows Dhoni's problems against the slow orthodox bowlers of the left arm.
Nobody but Captain Kohli will like his guide light to be successful, since his role will be immense should India remain in the competition for the end of next Sunday.
But the Sri Lankan game is also one of those encounters in which the Indians can breathe a little with ease and see some other combinations, even give the fire. Ravindra Jadeja , some playing time before the last four crashes.
Jadeja is the only player, apart from newly-affiliated Mayank Agarwal, who still does not have a game, but it's unlikely to happen considering there are too many lefties in Lankan's lineup.
However, this could lead Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri to retrieve Kedar Jadhav in the middle for his breaks.
But that could be a bit unfair to Dinesh Karthik, who did not face too many balls against Bangladesh in his last game.
Kohli has so far shown no inclination to push Dhoni in the order beyond number five. And it could turn out to be an interesting tactic if the former captain hits the number four, while powerful hitters like Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya Play your natural game by order.
The replacement of Vijay Shankar, Mayank, is already here, but his best friend KL Rahul, with a couple of fifties, has secured his place at the top of the order with Rohit, who would play a fifth world championship.
Rohit has scored two double ODI against this attack and will be intimidating to the likes of Isuru Udana. They will trust the intelligence of Malinga gathered in the wardrobe of the Indians of Mumbai to break the 'hitman code'.
India's fast bowlers, led by Jasprit Bumrah (14) and well supported by Mohammed Shami (14 terrains), ideally they would have liked to rest before the semifinals. But with the first position in online point lists, Kohli may be tempted to go with at least one of them, if not both.
India: virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Dhananjaya De Silva, Kasun Rajitha, Isuru Udana, Suranga Lakmal, Milinda Siriwardana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Thisara Perera, Avishkaka.