World Cup: A SWOT Analysis as India gears to end drought

There couldn’t have been a better setup heading into the World Cup, as India looks really sorted and in form with the Asia Cup victory and a decisive win against the Aussies. After 12 years, the tournament is back in India, and it’s the first time, we are hosting it as a solo host. And, all cricket fans, and the countrymen to be precise The final WC squad has been announced with Ashwin making the last-minute cut into the squad and Axar Patel sadly missing out. In this Blog, I will be doing a SWOT Analysis of the team as we kickstart our campaign on October 8.

Asia Cup Triumph in Style

India had its first game against Pakistan, which unfortunately couldn’t yield a result. Winning the toss, India came out to bat under overcast conditions against a fiery Pak pace attack. As Shaheen ripped through India’s top order, the scorecard soon read 27-2 and 66-4. But, from this point, Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya stepped up, showing great resilience and stitched a 138-run stand. Both Kishan and Pandya missed on to their 100s and after that the Pakistani pacers knocked off the remaining batters in a jiffy, bundling India at 266. This total though a little below par, looked just enough in the conditions and from the situation India was in. However, destiny had other ideas, as the Pakistan batting couldn’t even start amid continuous rains and the match was abandoned.

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Shaheen Afridi was on fire in the first IND v PAK game of the Asia Cup (Photo: Mint)

In the game against Nepal, India bundled out the opposition at 230 with Siraj and Jadeja picking three wickets each. Again after rain disturbances, India got a revised target of 145, which the opening duo of Rohit and Gill ended up chasing in mere 20-odd overs with both remaining unbeaten, in what was a display of complete dominance.

Then came the Super 4 stage, and India faced Pakistan once again. This time, the Indian batters came mentally prepared for the Shaheen-led Pak attack. Right from the start, Shubhman Gill took on Shaheen in a brandishing fashion, never actually allowing the speedster to settle. Rohit, too got in the song and smashed some huge sixes. Both openers got out after decent fifties. It was 123-2 when Virat and Rahul came out to bat, and no other wicket fell for the next 30-odd overs. In one of the most ‘Virat Kohli’ kind of innings, he scored 122 unbeaten from just 94 balls, with some extremely elegant shots, including the one against Naseem which almost felt like the ‘18.5’ off Rauf at MCG. KL Rahul too returned to form in style with a memorable 111. The total of 356-2 was just too much for the Pakistan line-up, as the whole team got bundled out at 128, with Kuldeep grabbing a fifer once again. This was one of the most dominating victories by India against arch-rival Pakistan lately.

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Virat Kohli made of his finest centuries against arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asia Cup (Photo: ICC)

India’s next game was against Sri Lanka, and it turned out much tougher than expected. On a slow wicket, a newbie Dunith Wellalage came as a surprise package and ran through India’s batting lineup with his five-wicket haul, very well supported by Asalanka who took 4. Other than Rohit’s gritty fifty and fighting 30s from Rahul and Kishan, India had nothing to show and could only manage 213, being all out in the last over. However, Indian bowling too started right on point. After striking blows by the pacers reduced Sri Lanka to 25-3, the spinners took the charge taking the score to 99-6. Wellalage, again seemed to come between the victory along with Dhanjaya deSilva, before Jadega knocked off the latter. The rest of the team was dismissed at 172 with Wellalage remaining unbeaten at 42. Kuldeep was India’s star performer once again with a brilliant four-wicket haul.

The last league game had India against Bangladesh. In what was a dead rubber, India fielded a weaker XI resting Virat, Pandya and Kuldeep. Indian bowling kept Bangladesh on the edge throughout reducing them to 28-3 and 193-7. But, what should have been a total under 250, was taken to 265 by some solid display by their tailenders. Even this total, shouldn’t have been difficult, but on what looked a completely ‘off colour’ day for Indian batters, it found itself 17-2 and 139-5. Shubhman Gill stood the lone man fighting, and doing that brilliantly with his knock of 121. This could have been one of his most memorable knocks if he had been able to take India across the line. But, despite Axar’s late heroics (42 off 34), India missed the target by 6 runs…a kind of reality check before the finals.

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‘Mian Magic’ was at its hurricane best blowing away with six wickets in the final of the Asia Cup (Photo: Scroll)

The Final ‘Drama’

In the 40 years of Asia Cup history, there has never been an IND vs. PAK final. It could have been this time, but Pakistan missed out in a close contest with Sri Lanka as their pace attack really lost steam by this time. In the final game in Colombo, hardly anyone expected what was witnessed. I remember being all geared up in my office sitting right in front of the TV. It was Bumrah who drew the first blood, dismissing Kusal Perera at the second delivery. After that, it was a ‘Mohammad Siraj’ show all the way. Taking 4 wickets in the fourth over, he completely crushed the Sri Lankan batting to a point, it could never recover. Finally, the Sri Lankan team was dismissed at the score of 50, with Siraj getting six wickets under his belt.

Coming out to bat, Rohit decided to send in Kishan with Gill, and the two knew how to get the job done. Both remained unbeaten at 23 and 27 respectively and took India firmly over the line. India lifted the Asia Cup for the record eighth time and skipper Rohit Sharma became only the second captain to win two Asia Cups after the Legend MS Dhoni.

Watch: Shaheen Shah Afridi congratulates Jasprit Bumrah on becoming a father, gives gifts for baby boy | Cricket News - The Indian Express

Two stalwarts and arch-rivals —Jasprit Bumrah and Shaheen Afridi — enjoying some light moment (Photo: Indian Express)

‘Politics’ before the Game

Having an Asia Cup just ahead of the major ICC tournament is always beneficial. After much chaos and uproar, the 2023 edition of the tournament was hosted with Pakistan and Sri Lanka as co-hosts. Personally, I think it was a tad unfair for Pakistan, especially for the cricket fans out there. But, practically and even logically, the state of affairs in Pakistan — for which Islamabad is solely responsible — doesn’t give much assurance to others.

Anyways, the camaraderie between the players of two arch-rival nations is always heart-warming to watch out. Whether, it was Virat Kohli having a light moment with Haris Rauf (an arch-rival, whom he smashed two sixes), or Shaheen Afridi gifting the newly became father (and again a competitor) Jasprit Bumrah. Also, the reception the Pakistan team received in India, speaks volumes of why the game is always above jingoistic politics. However, remarks by the PCB Chairman calling India “Dushman Mulk” and from many in India calling shots at Indian players for being friendly with Pak players, again show it is the hate-mongering politics, that comes out the better of the game.

A decisive win against the Aussies

India also had an ODI series against the Aussies lined up right before the World Cup. In a surprising move, India rested both Rohit and Virat for the first two ODIs. This was actually a poor idea because these two guys haven’t played that many matches lately, so some match practice was not a bad thing. Anyways, both teams headed on the series with a rotation policy, aiming to save their prime players from injuries ahead of the mega tournament.

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Shubhman Gill after a solid hundred in the second ODI (Photo: Sportskeeda)

In the first game, Australia was bundled out at 276, with Shami registering a fifer running through some big names. India got off to a flying start with Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shubhman Gill both scoring in the 70s at a blistering pace. SKY and Rahul too ramped up the fifties to make sure India reached the target well comfortably. In the second game, India scored a mammoth 399 riding on huge tons from Gill and Iyer. SKY again chipped with his monstrous finishing touch. The total was going to be too much for the Aussies, and despite the fifties from Warner and Abbott, it wasn’t enough to take them across the line. Jadeja and Ashwin were the pick of bowlers (especially the latter) with three wickets each. When Virat and Rohit returned, India had already sealed the series.

India vs Australia 3rd ODI: Action in images | Hindustan Times

Glenn Maxwell rolled in his golden arm taking away the game from India (Photo: Hindustan Times)

In the final ODI, Australia got off to a flying start, from Marsh missing on a 100 (96), and riding on fifties from Smith, Warner and Labuschagne, they posted a solid 352. It was still good from India’s point of view as it pulled back much of the damage at the end. Rohit, who came up with unconventional partner Washington Sundar, looked in sublime touch and smashed vintage sixes on his course to 81. Virat too scored a fine fifty at a brisk pace. Although India seemed poised for a whitewash at 144-1 in 20 odd overs, the surprise package in Glenn Maxwell drew four huge wickets and the middle order couldn’t really step up to the task. India was all out at 286, and the Aussies got a consolation victory of 66 runs at the end.


India’s 15-member squad for the 2023 World Cup (Photo: X@BCCI)

India’s World Cup squad: Balanced set of Ammunition

If we look at India’s WC squad, it looks almost sorted with momentum also coming under its belt just at the right time (especially after the loss against West Indies). The team’s biggest strength is its Batting. Right from the opening duo of Rohit and Gill, the latter especially being in ominous form. After Virat at 3 — whose outing at the tournament can very well be defining for India’s fortunes — the middle order looks really really solid and balanced with Iyer and Rahul (both prolific batters in fine form) followed by all-rounders Pandya and Jadeja (latter’s current form is a mild concern though). Other than them, we have Ishan Kishan whose primary job is that of ‘third opener’, but can also be used as a floater down the order. Suryakumar Yadav gives you a destructive option at the end and is also pumped up after recent fireworks against Australia.

In the bowling department, Bumrah, who made his comeback just months back, and Siraj, both are in solid form, and so is Shami. The only weak link in the pace attack is Shardul. In my opinion, India should definitely go all out with their three prime pacers, without worrying about depth down the order. The choice of spinner particularly would be interesting. While the team would definitely keep Jadeja (even more now with Axar missing out), the other spinner has to be either Ashwin or Kuldeep, both of whom are in marvellous form lately. Interestingly, both of them have made a solid redemption too in their careers from what seemed a point of no return. Also, in some games later in the tournament — on used and broken wickets — India might even go with three spinners and three pace options (including Pandya). All in all, the squad looks pretty much sorted and balanced.

We can lift it' Rohit Sharma poses with World Cup 2023 trophy, confident of team's success at home

Captain Rohit Sharma would want to make this tournament memorable and defining one of his career (Photo: Inside Sport)

Chak De India…!!!!!

It’s been over a decade since we lifted a trophy. 12 years ago, it was at the Wankhede stadium, where we registered one of our most memorable World Cup wins. This time, in 2023, it will be the great ‘Narendra Modi Stadium’ in Ahmedabad. We have a solid team, as well as a home advantage, so making it to the top four should not be a huge task for us (my SF prediction — India, Australia, England and Pakistan). What will eventually matter, is with which frame of mind we head into those games (keeping in mind, our poor record in knockouts lately). For the last three tournaments, it has been the host team winning it (the trend was started by us only for the first time, in 2011). So, I just hope the trend continues for at least till this tournament (it is anyways poised to be broken in 2027). Finally, I would just wish our team all the very best as they head onto the tournament. I am completely rooting for the World Cup and may we keep it home this time.




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