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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: What India's game plan should be with each opponent

A look at who Virat Kohli's team will face and how

By Sanjeeb Mukherjea in New Delhi

  • Published 5.06.19, 1:14 PM
  • Updated 5.06.19, 5:42 PM
Virat Kohli with teammates at the nets during a training session ahead of the match against South Africa in Southampton on June 3.
Virat Kohli with teammates at the nets during a training session ahead of the match against South Africa in Southampton on June 3. AP

India's World Cup is about to begin. Virat Kohli's team kick off their campaign against an injury-ridden South Africa that has already lost pace spearhead Dale Steyn to a second shoulder injury, and will also miss the services of pacer Lungi Ngidi for ten days.

South Africa twice conceded 300-plus scores in their first two games and lost them. That doesn't make things easy for Faf du Plessis' men.

India on the other hand, start their campaign a week after their last warm-up game, all this while paintballing and practising, while keeping a keen eye on the proceedings so far.

Billed as the tournament joint-favourites alongside hosts England, India present a formidable unit that is all set to take the World Cup by storm.

With a tournament as long as this, what makes it even more necessary for Team India to be on the ball is that they face the Proteas, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in their first four outings. Here is what India could specifically plan for as they make their gameplay tighter for every individual opponent.

India vs South Africa

When: June 5, 3 pm

Spin to win should be India’s mantra of this game. The Proteas struggled against Indian spinners last year, and nothing has possibly changed. A bit thin on batting, their ability to post big scores or chase down targets hinges on their top 3 - Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and skipper Faf du Plessis.

Barring du Plessis, none has fared well against Kuldeep Yadav who strikes every 3 overs against South Africa, his best strike rate in ODIs.

De Kock has hit 11 of his 14 tons in a winning cause and is certainly the big wicket India would look to get early. Bowling full outside off could be the bait to get him, and if not, unleash Yuzvendra Chahal, against whom the explosive opener scores at just a run every 2 balls.

Australia's Steve Smith (left) and David Warner chat after their first batting over against Afghanistan at the Bristol County Ground on June 1.
Australia's Steve Smith (left) and David Warner chat after their first batting over against Afghanistan at the Bristol County Ground on June 1. AP

India vs Australia

When: June 9, 3 pm

Target captain Aaron Finch who hasn't been in the best of form for a while. While the Aussies have beaten India earlier this year, the World Cup is a different ball-game altogether.

The Aussie quicks with their pace and bounce would look to unsettle the Indian openers, but Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have the repertoire to handle it. K.L. Rahul, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja should be No.4 to No.8, with Shami, Chahal and Bumrah could make up the playing XI.

Though the Aussies seem to be reading wrist-spin a bit better than most, their top-order will be wary of India's spin threat. Use Bumrah in short spells, and most certainly, bring him when the dangerous Glenn Maxwell comes out to bat.

New Zealand's Colin de Grandhomme (centre) celebrates after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews (left) in Cardiff, Wales, on June 1.
New Zealand's Colin de Grandhomme (centre) celebrates after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews (left) in Cardiff, Wales, on June 1. AP

India vs New Zealand

When: June 13, 3 pm

Bring on Bumrah when Kane Williamson is out to bat. One of the best in the business, Williamson, though, has problems negotiating Bumrah. The Kiwis, with the likes of Guptill, Taylor and Williamson are capable of taking the attack to the bowlers, but India's quality pace attack is capable of handling that threat.

They have a couple of good players of spin, but the key would be in using Jadeja to attack the batsmen with his wicket-to-wicket deliveries.

Boult remains one of the premier bowlers in the competition, but the Indian top order should be equally careful with the likes of Matt Henry.

Seeing off the first ten overs is of paramount importance as the Kiwi bowlers are adept at using the new ball.

Pakistan's Wahab Riaz celebrates taking the wicket of England's Chris Woakes at Trent Bridge on June 3.
Pakistan's Wahab Riaz celebrates taking the wicket of England's Chris Woakes at Trent Bridge on June 3. AP

India vs Pakistan

When: June 16, 3 pm

Pakistan will forever be under pressure playing India in a World Cup game. They have never won a game in the World Cup.

While Wahab Riaz is threatening another blast from the past with his terrific spell as seen against England, it will be the early threat of Md. Amir, who tends to bring the ball back in to the right-hander as well as occasionally take it away, that is the real big threat.

If the Indian openers get going, it will be game over. Forget the hype about Pakistan being the most unpredictable team in the world, India must break their confidence early in the game. And though they are better players of spin, India must play Kedar Jadhav.

Afghanistan's Mohammad Nabi celebrates taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Kusal Mendis at the Cardiff Stadium, Wales, on June 4.
Afghanistan's Mohammad Nabi celebrates taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Kusal Mendis at the Cardiff Stadium, Wales, on June 4. AP

India vs Afghanistan

When: June 22, 3 pm

Afghanistan has a couple of good spinners, that include Rashid Khan, and a batting line-up that does boast of big-hitters but none with the reputation to forge big scores.

This one should be an easy fixture for the Men in Blue. In spite of all that the Afghans have achieved in the world of cricket over a short span of time, they still have a long way to go before they can pose a serious challenges to teams like India.

While many have opted for a 'defend Rashid' approach, India should look to attack him straightaway. Confidence and rhythm are the two factors that decide a performance. Take them away and Rashid's threat will be blunted.

West Indies' bowler Andre Russell (left) celebrates with Darren Bravo taking the wicket of Pakistan's Haris Sohail at Trent Bridge on May 31.
West Indies' bowler Andre Russell (left) celebrates with Darren Bravo taking the wicket of Pakistan's Haris Sohail at Trent Bridge on May 31. AP

India vs West Indies

When: June 27, 3 pm

Play both wrist-spinners, and bring one of them when Chris Gayle is batting. And get Bumrah to bowl to Andre Russell. While the rest of the batting doesn't play spin that well, West Indies do have Nicholas Pooran who is capable of playing against spin too. The Indian top order should certainly take note of the aggressive short-pitched stuff that Oshane Thomas and Co have been preparing.

India could also look to promote Hardik Pandya up the order if they lose early wickets.

England's Joe Root kisses his helmet after scoring a century against Pakistan at Trent Bridge on June 3.
England's Joe Root kisses his helmet after scoring a century against Pakistan at Trent Bridge on June 3. AP

India vs England

When: June 30, 3 pm

India need their best bowling attack to take on one of the best batting line-ups in world cricket now. Play Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Md Shami, plus Kuldeep and Chahal. No bowling short and wide to Jason Roy and Johnny Bairstow.

Attack them with lines closer to the body, as well as the probing line just outside off.

Statistics show England have the most success against leg-spin over the past one year, but wait till Kul-Cha (Kuldeep & Chahal) are unleashed on them.

Buttler and Stokes are key to the English batting, but their tentative approach to top-class spin bowling should set the tone for the game.

English bowlers will target the Indian top order with nagging lines, that is bowling close to or on the off-stump, and the bouncy stuff, but it might not be enough to contain Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli.

Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan celebrates taking the wicket of South Africa's Aiden Markram at the Oval in London on June 2.
Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan celebrates taking the wicket of South Africa's Aiden Markram at the Oval in London on June 2. AP

India vs Bangladesh

When: July 2, 3 pm

Play an extra batsman even at the cost of a spinner. See off Mustafizur's first spell, he does have the ball talking. Getting Mortaza away shouldn't be a problem as he has lost a lot of pace. Batters should aim to score as many if they are setting a target. Bangladesh do have good batsmen who are capable of big chases, but the key wickets should be Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur and Shakib.

This is fast becoming another testy rivalry, and a close game will only enhance that reputation. Bring on Dinesh Karthik. The Bangla Tigers won’t like being reminded of their past losses.

Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga celebrates taking the wicket of Afghanistan's Hamid Hassan at the Cardiff Stadium on June 4.
Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga celebrates taking the wicket of Afghanistan's Hamid Hassan at the Cardiff Stadium on June 4. AP

India vs Sri Lanka

When: July 6, 3 pm

One of the poorest Lankan sides to turn up at a World Cup, Dimuth Karunaratne's team haven't had the best of starts, and look like a rag-tag unit. They play spin well, so play Bumrah, Bhuvi and Shami. Use Kedar Jadhav in short spells. As for India's batting, it can take care of itself.

Sanjeeb Mukherjea is a sports television personality. An award-winning journalist, Mukherjea is also the lead anchor and commentator for the 2019 World Cup for Star Sports 1 Bangla