Sachin Tendulkar, the former India batsman, has said teams that can bowl well in partnerships to contain runs in the middle overs will be the ones to watch out for at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
The England-Pakistan series in the lead-up to the tournament has already given a preview of things to come, with scores of 350 or above routinely being achieved. With the 2019 English summer expected to be hot, dry surfaces could yet further that trend at the World Cup.
“It [scores of 350] has to do with two new balls,” Tendulkar told ESPNcricinfo. “Even in the 46th or 47th over, the ball is only 23 or 24 overs old. So it is not an old ball as such, it still has a fair amount of gloss and it doesn't reverse. As per the earlier rule, when we were playing with one ball, around the 28th over or so, the ball would start reversing. It would also get disfigured, get softer. So for a batsman, it was a challenge to go out and tonk every bowler.
“Here, the ball is maintaining its hardness, shine, and with field restrictions, all these elements are putting a lot of pressure on bowling attacks. I believe if you have quality spinners to bowl in the middle overs, they would end up picking wickets. It is all about bowling in partnerships – if quality bowlers could bowl in tandem and create pressure on the batting line-up, that is one way of countering all these factors."
India have that box ticked, with their two wrist-spinners – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Both are not only effective at choking the flow of runs in the middle overs, but are also strike bowlers, adept at picking wickets at regular intervals and breaking partnerships.
But while India are sorted in that regard, they have some other questions to answer, such as their middle order, or, more specifically, who bats at No.4. Tendulkar, though, remained non-committal, saying that batsmen should be versatile enough to play in any position that is required of them.
He did, however, assign his preferred position for MS Dhoni. “My personal opinion is Dhoni should be batting five," he said. "I still don't know what the team combination would be, but if you are going [with] Rohit and Shikhar as openers, to Virat [Kohli] at No. 3 and whoever at No. 4, then Dhoni could be No. 5. Then Hardik Pandya, an explosive player, follows them. That way, the experienced batsmen are well spaced out and Dhoni can stretch the game towards the end, where he himself can be explosive, along with Hardik.”
Speaking further on Pandya, Tendulkar heaped praise on the Baroda all-rounder, citing his exploits in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League. Pandya was in marauding form, reeling off 402 runs at 44.66 and a strike-rate of 191.42. The last time India played in an ICC tournament – the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy, which also took place in England – Pandya played one of the most brutal innings in a tournament final, slamming 76 off 43 balls.
“Looking at the way Hardik has played in the IPL, he is connecting the ball really well,” Tendulkar said. “He hasn't slogged, to be honest. He has played proper cricketing shots, which is an advantage because that is how one would get more consistent. That is going to work in his favour. Hardik, of course, has gone to England with lots and lots of confidence and positive energy, which will reflect on the field. This is going to be a big tournament for him."
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