One of the World Cup favourite teams has an array of talent spearheaded by its captain.
Virat Kohli is a truly exceptional talent with the bat and, given his dominance over the world’s best bowlers, he’s the modern-day equivalent of Sir Donald Bradman. Kohli was the fastest to 10 000 ODI runs, reaching the mark in an eye-popping 205 innings, 54 innings quicker than Sachin Tendulkar, who is second on the list.
Kohli’s great strength is his ability to convert good starts into big innings in all forms of the game, which shows his hunger for runs, his stamina and his mental focus. Sitting in first place in the ICC’s Test and ODI batting rankings, it is in ODIs, however, that Kohli is particularly dangerous. His ODI average is second only to Netherlands’ PE-born Ryan Ten Doeschate, who averaged 67.00 runs per innings from 32 knocks. Mind you, Kohli’s phenomenal average of 59.57 has been achieved consistently over 219 innings.
None of the world’s top batsmen are so consistent across all three formats and Kohli is the only batsman to average over 50 in Tests, ODIs and T20Is – that’s truly Bradmanesque. While Kohli is the brain, backbone and ribcage of his side, India’s majesty is built from more than the bat of this one great man.
India is the powerhouse of the 50-over game, being ranked second behind dangerous England by a slim margin of just three rating points on the ICC’s ODI rankings. On a personnel level, they boast the top-ranked bowler and batsman, with three bowlers in the top eight and three batsmen in the top 12. They haven’t been firing on more than two cylinders in recent months, but their engine is power-packed.
Rohit Sharma is the No 2-ranked ODI batsman in the world behind Kholi, while Shikhar Dhawan is 12th on the list, giving India something of a monopoly on the world’s best batsmen.
Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav all add substance to their batting on paper, and while they have had a ragged look as a unit, it is an ominous lineup for a World Cup campaign.
India’s batsmen are traditionally their heroes, but their bowling attack is pretty special too, with three bowlers ranked in the Top 8 in the ICC’s ODI bowler rankings, and four in the top 16. That’s double the number of high-performing bowlers compared to any other nation. While rankings won’t guarantee success in the World Cup, they are a definite hazard warning for the opposition.
Jasprit Bumrah is ranked the No 1 bowler in ODIs and with his nasty whip of pace (he’s been clocked at 153.26 km/h) and unusual bowling action he can be tough to deal with at the best of times, so English wickets could prove to his liking if he can hit his zones.
Kuldeep Yadav’s slow left-arm chinaman deliveries have him ranked one slot behind Proteas star Kagiso Rabada in sixth spot, while Yuzvendra Chahal’s leg-breaking googlies have him two slots down in eighth place. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (16th) offers great value with his medium pacers, as do Mohammad Shami (35th) and Hardik Pandya (58th), while Ravindra Jadeja (33rd) has bags of experience and the ability to keep things tight as well as pick up key wickets bowling slow left-arm orthodox.
Kedar Jadhav offers valuable run-scoring in the middle order, but his right-arm offies complete a superbly well-rounded bowling attack that will give captain Kohli an astonishing array of bowling options on English wickets, with a bowler to meet any situation or to counter any batsman on the loose.
There’s no question that India have the ability to make big runs, but it’s their bowling attack that truly gives them the look of champions-elect for Cricket World Cup 2019.
This article was written by Simon Lewis in the latest issue of SA Cricket magazine.
Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images