Be it age or match experience, bowling or batting metrics, India has many reasons to look at themselves against the opposition and fancy their chances
At an average of 105 matches, the Indian squad of 15 players, in England for the one-day international (ODI) World Cup, packs in more experience than the other nine sides. It also averages 10.5 matches in England—where the weather, air and pitches ask difficult questions—and this is again more than any other side, barring hosts England.
In spite of leading in matches played, India is only the fifth-oldest side in the tournament. Its top six batsmen have an average run count in ODIs that is 32% more than the next best side. The average wicket haul of its top five bowlers is the third-best and its economy rate is the joint best. All reasons to feel good about the World Cup, which begins on 30 May.
Then, there’s the new format, last used in the World Cup in 1992. Groups are history. Instead, each team plays the other. The top four progress to the semi-finals, at which point, given how top teams are matched, it comes down to who is better on the day. But till that point, a round-robin format allows teams to have a bad game or two, and still claw back. It values skill, depth and experience, and India stands well on all three counts.
Let’s start with experience. One-third of the 150 players in the tournament have not played a single ODI in England. At the other end, of the 39 who have played at least 100 ODIs anywhere, six are Indians—a count only South Africa matches. That helps the Indian squad register an average experience of 105 matches. The next best among leading sides is England, with 80 matches.
The flip side of experience is old legs slowing down things in a fast-paced format. That’s, however, not so with India. The average age of the Indian squad is 29.5 years, which is marginally less than South Africa, Australia and England—three other contenders.
Seven Indian players are above the age of 30, which compares reasonably with the top sides. And, barring Rohit Sharma, they are all assets in the field rather than liabilities.
Sharma is a winner with the bat, one of the accumulators who makes Indian batting look good on paper. For each team, we looked at numbers for the top six batsmen to have scored the maximum runs, with the additional condition that one of them should be the wicketkeeper.
India leads in average runs scored (6,385) and averages (44), and is respectable on strike rates (87). There are three Indians in the top six by career runs scored: Virat Kohli, M.S. Dhoni and Sharma. But they may not paper over the fragility of the Indian middle-order arising from the absence of experience and specialist batsmen.
Across the teams, there are notable batting statistics. Like England, whose six batters are the only ones to average a strike rate that is above 100, while racking up solid numbers in runs scored and batting averages.
Like Pakistan, whose upcoming batting trio—Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam—occupies slots two to four in ODI batting averages across all sides, with all averaging above 50.
In bowling, for each side, we looked at the top five bowlers who held the highest positions in the ICC ODI rankings—which considers past performance, as well as current performance, and quality of opponents and conditions. On bowling experience, the fancied sides come lower down. Leading on average wickets, instead, are Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh also does well in terms of economy rate, though some of this is also down to not playing the top-tier sides enough. Likewise, Afghanistan, whose spin duo of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman have given them the most frugal record.
The Indian bowling line-up, which comprises pace and spin options, does respectably on all three metrics, averaging 115 wickets per bowler and an economy rate of 4.8. South Africa’s line-up is the most potent in striking, followed by Afghanistan and Australia. Past performance though is all very well; now on to the field.
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