What do India need to change from the 2019 World Cup?

The 2019 ODI World Cup was won by a team that had dominated the cycle leading up to it — England. The hosts played the most games in the cycle (88), winning 71% of those games. England’s modus operandi in this period was characterised by their dominance with the bat through an aggressive brand of cricket. They scored faster than any other team (6.29 rpo), hit a then world record score (481/6 vs Australia in Nottingham, 2018) and had best boundary percentage, finding the fence 12% of the deliveries they had faced.

India’s Rohit Sharma, right, congratulates Shubman Gill for scoring a half century during the Asia Cup cricket match between India and Nepal in Pallekele(AP)

This time, however, the cards appear to be falling in India’s favour. India have played more matches than any other team in the cycle (54) up to the Asia Cup and are scoring faster than they did in the previous cycle (6.07 v 5.70) — both good signs leading into the tournament which many will be expecting them to win.

During the 2019 World Cup itself, India performed brilliantly through the group stages, topping the group with seven wins in nine matches. They boasted the highest batting average in the tournament, with the highest average against pace and spin also. In fact India finished in the top half of teams in a number of the batting departments in terms of the bulk of runs scored per wicket lost.

Where they fell short however was the pace at which the runs were scored. This has long been an area of discourse in Indian cricket circles, with the intent to score/wicket preservation argument rolling on, particularly in the mandatory Powerplay of the first 10 overs.

Of the 10 teams at the 2019 WC, India were ranked ninth in terms of Powerplay run rates, scoring at just 4.40 runs per over. With only two fielders allowed outside of the circle, it presents a prime opportunity to get ahead of the game with controlled aggression, which is exactly how England went about things.

The hosts had the second highest attacking shot percentage of any team and ended up with the second highest Powerplay run rate. India were the most cautious of any batting side in the Powerplay, attacking just 27.5% of their total deliveries faced in the first phase of the innings. Showing more intent in the first phase in familiar conditions may be the key to unlock the tournament for India.

The promotion of Ishan Kishan to open with Rohit Sharma may be a way of bringing more attacking intent to the Powerplay. In the recent series in the West Indies, Kishan scored 80 runs from 87 balls in the Powerplay, attacking 41% of those balls. He was not dismissed in any of those innings within the first 10 overs, showing that he can play with controlled aggression and score at the necessary pace to take advantage of this vital first phase. But it’s difficult to see him opening with Shubman Gill clearly the first pick.

With the ball, India were dominant in the 2019 World Cup. They were the most economical team in the Powerplay, conceding just 3.91 rpo. This was backed up by a brilliant middle overs strike rate of 39.6, the second lowest of all sides, with the pressure exuded in the initial phase coming to fruition through the middle overs. Overall, the Indian seamers were the best in the competition in terms of average and strike rate, and with their star man, Jasprit Bumrah, on the comeback trail, they look to be fairly well catered for in that department going into this tournament.

Spinners were fairly ineffective through the 2019 WC, taking wickets at an average of 48.15 compared to 29.18 for pacers. This time in Indian conditions, spin is going to play a far more prominent role with the average in India over the last cycle far closer to pace bowling compared to what it was in the 2019 WC (42-32). However, India are expected to have an upper hand in home conditions.

All in all, India were so desperately close to a winning formula in 2019, and following their dominant group stage performances, many thought they may go on to lift the trophy in the Lord’s final. However, with conditions more familiar than before, and a potential change of intent in the Powerplay, India should be on course to challenge for the title again, if they can replicate what they did so well in 2019 as well as tweak the area in which they drastically underperformed.

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