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30 November 2023

Bowling woes bog down India's title defence

India's paceman Ishant Sharma (left) talks to team's captain MS Dhoni at the tea break on the fourth day of the 2nd Test between Australia and India at Gabba in Brisbane on December 20, 2014. (AFP)

By Reuters

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was part of the design process when manufacturers decided to recycle around 33 bottles to produce one Team India kit, making smart use of the plastic waste that litters every Indian road.

As India bid to become only the third nation to defend a World Cup title, Dhoni faces a not to dissimilar job with his bowling resources.

Bowling, let alone pace bowling, has never been the strong point of any Indian team and they've traditionally relied on their wristy, nimble-footed batsmen to score those extra runs to win matches.
The inexperienced pace attack led by Ishant Sharma is unlikely to send shivers down the opponents' spine, while the effectiveness of the Indian spinners outside the subcontinent's dustbowls is always a matter of conjecture.

Coach Duncan Fletcher, however, is bullish about the team which lost the Test series in Australia and could not register a single win in the subsequent tri-series also involving England.

"What makes this team special is that over the last few years they have faced all kinds of situations in the limited overs cricket and have shown they are capable of coming out successfully from all of them," said the Zimbabwean.

"That's why I say that we have a good chance to win this World Cup."

While India's bowling woes are well-documented, the batting order, though teeming with strokemakers, does not inspire much confidence.

Opener Rohit Sharma does not lack talent - as two ODI double hundreds prove - but his quest for consistency shows no signs of ending soon.

Shikhar Dhawan's struggle for form may also deny India a flying start, something so crucial in 50-over cricket, and he may have to pave way for Ajinkya Rahane.

It is largely Virat Kohli's form, Suresh Raina's limited over prowess and Dhoni's ability to finish close matches that fuel India's hopes of emulating West Indies and Australia in defending the title.

Fletcher points to India's performance in the Twenty20 World Cups in 2012 and 2014 and the 2013 Champions Trophy, insisting the team knows how to win big tournaments.

"We have played three ICC tournaments in the last three years...And people will be surprised to see that we have only lost two games in all of which one was the final. That is quite a record to be proud of," Fletcher said.

"And the team in all those tournaments was more or less the same. So, these boys do have the experience when it comes to the big tournaments and they do know how to win them."