By: Chinmay Vaidya
No Virat Kohli, no problem.
India stormed through the Asia Cup with relative ease on the back of its two openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, before the team's middle order stepped up in a thrilling Asia Cup final against Bangladesh. Despite the victory, India's batting struggles were on full display.
Sharma and Dhawan were absolute monsters in the tournament. They accounted for 50.7 percent of the team's runs in the competition and combined for three centuries. Despite being unable to carry the team in the final, the duo still put up a combined 63 runs to spearhead the chase.
MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu had the opportunity to establish themselves as reliable contributors with a match-winning innings in the final. They all failed, highlighting a problem India has faced since the 2015 World Cup. Rayudu bowed out after seven deliveries. Karthik and Dhoni built solid foundations for themselves, but were not able to translate it into the big score.
Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were tasked with rescuing the team from an embarrassing loss. As a true all-rounder, Jadeja can be counted on for runs and he was able to deliver. Kumar, on the other hand, should not be tasked with that responsibility. If Kedar Jadhav had not come back after a minor injury, it's very possible India is not lifting this trophy. Kumar is a decent batsman and can chip in when needed. He should not be counted on for runs.
In this tournament, India went with a middle order group that is reliable but not bursting with potential. The selectors will have to determine whether a similar approach will yield winning results at the World Cup in 2019 or whether a new group is required. Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson are all young, middle-order batsmen who could see opportunites if India decides to go in the latter direction.
For now, India can sit back and celebrate. Kohli's return will ease some concerns, but the search for a reliable No. 4 and No. 5 batsman continues.