The reigning World Champions have just completed a disastrous tour of Australia, finishing winless – hardly ideal preparation for their title defence. The side is well out of form and inspiration needs to be found and found quickly. Virat Kohli cannot win a World Cup on his own.
We’ve singled out the all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja to keep an eye on. The 26 year old is a superstar in India and it is high time he lived up to that lofty billing on the international stage. He has played 111 ODIs now, with 1696 runs at an average of 33.92 and 134 wickets at 32.76. That is a sound analysis for an ODI career, but Jadeja has at this World Cup an opportunity to cement his reputation.
Jadeja has the experience of six years of ODI cricket behind him now. He has the all-round capabilities to provide lower order runs and to keep things tight with the ball. An economy rate of 4.81 bears testimony to this.
But can Jadeja be a match winner in his own right? Can he transcend the mediocrity around him and stand level with Kohli? He has the opportunity to step forward at this tournament, to take games by the scruff of the neck and dominate.
To look at the India squad, they badly need Jadeja to step up here. Shikhar Dhawan is woefully out of form and there has been unrest between him and Kohli. MS Dhoni has a cloud over him following his abrupt retirement from the Test arena and the ongoing match fixing allegations in IPL, the bowling looks weak, emphasised by Stuart Binny being given one of the new balls in the recent tri-series with Australia and England. Spin has always been a key weapon for India and R Ashwin has been in and out of the side a bit of late and Axar Patel hasn’t yet blossomed into a first team regular.
There is a symbolic gap in the Indian side to fill. Ajinkya Rahane is fast casting himself as a batsman to build an innings around; Rohit Sharma has demonstrated that he can win matches on his own – India lacks a world beating all-rounder. Jadeja should be approaching his prime. It is time to live up to his superstar billing.
By Miles Reucroft