India still working on middle-order ahead of World Cup

London: India may be one of cricket’s top one-day teams, but batting coach Sanjay Bangar has said they have work to do deciding their middle-order for next year’s World Cup in England.

The tourists will record their 10th successive bilateral one-day series win if they beat England at Headingley on Tuesday after the hosts levelled the three-match contest at 1-1 with an 86-run win at Lord’s on Saturday.

England’s victory strengthened the perception that India are vulnerable if teams can penetrate their powerful top three of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and captain Virat Kohli.

“Going forward, there’s still 16, 17 games to go (until the World Cup), we are looking at the games remaining where we could look at settling the middle-order slots,” Bangar told reporters at Headingley on Monday.

“I’m sure things are pretty fluid at the moment. It’s not that a guy is only going to bat at a particular number, it’s going to be a very, very fluid situation and we’ll see as to the players availability.”

Veteran No 6 MS Dhoni came under fire for his strangely sluggish innings during India’s run-chase at Lord’s but Bangar defended the former captain’s approach by highlighting the match situation and the current composition of the side.

“When the team loses four wickets — at least in the one-day format with the combination we are playing at the moment — we do not really have the depth at number eight, nine and 10 where the batsman at number six, seven can play with that freedom,” Bangar explained.

“The way our top order is batting, generally, our middle order hasn’t got the number of opportunities that you would expect because they are doing the bulk of the scoring.

“At times, straight away they have to walk into a game situation. Not all of the players are playing all formats of the game. You also have to give some weight to that.”

India could have spearhead seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar back at Headingley if the 28-year-old, yet to play in this series because of injury, passes a fitness test after bowling in the nets on Monday.

“He’s a quality bowler,” said Bangar, who added Kumar’s absence had allowed India to assess their bowling depth.

“It provides us an opportunity, because there’s not too many games to go before the World Cup — only 16 or 17 games. It gives us an ideal situation to test the bench strength.”

After the one-dayers, India face England in a five-Test series crammed into some six weeks and Bangar added: “Also with the upcoming Test series coming, we never wanted to take any chances with Bhuvi. He’s very critical to the team’s plans.”

Agence France-Presse