A new-look Indian cricket team defeated South Africa on its own soil in Durban on Thursday evening convincingly to take a 1-0 lead in the six-match series. Chasing a target of 270 runs, skipper Virat Kohli’s century ensured that team India won the match with 4.3 overs to spare. The Indian cricket team has been one of the most consistent ODI units since the 2015 ODI World Cup. Their top-six average 49.37 in this period which is the highest among the Test playing nations. The concern, however, remains to be the strike-rate. In an era where 350 is the new 300, only Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav have scored at over 100 for India, resulting in only four 350 plus scores since the last world cup.
Both Kohli, and MS Dhoni before him have been more than happy to score between 300 and 325 while batting first and then apply the scoreboard pressure to win games. The approach has been to build the innings in the first few overs before going all guns blazing in the last 10. The latest move to play Ajinkya Rahane at number 4 further strengthens this philosophy. As explained by Kohli, the decision was taken keeping in mind the tough batting conditions of England, where the next 50-over World Cup will be played in less than 14 months.
But, this is where the team management might have missed a trick. England isn’t the same place as it used to be. In the Champions Trophy held in England last year, teams scored over 300 runs quite successfully, making India’s approach a risky one. Even not so strong Sri Lanka had chased down 321 against men in blue last year with ease. At the end of 2016, team India scored 300-plus totals in Perth and Brisbane and made 295 in Melbourne – all in a span of five days, and lost each time.
India win and take 1-0 lead ✅
Virat Kohli’s 1st ODI ton in SA✅
Virat Kohli – Man of the Match✅
Rahane’s 5th straight ODI 50✅#TeamIndia #SAvIND pic.twitter.com/tVyX5P4Q8a
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 1, 2018
So what has to be done? To find out, we turn towards a team that has set new standards for opponents in the 50-over format.
A month before the 2015 World Cup, England had sacked Aliastar Cook and appointed Eoin Morgan as their limited-overs skipper. Before leaving for Australia, the team had said that it would take an ‘absolute stinker’ for them to make it to the quarter-final. Their highest score in the tournament was 309 and as it turned out, England failed to reach the last 8 round. The coach was sacked, the team was given a new look but the captain remained same.
Eoin Morgan, with his magic wand, chanted some ‘mantra’ that changed England cricket forever. In their first ODI assignment after the World Cup, England scored 408, 365, 302, 350, and 192 (in 25 overs) against New Zealand in a five-match series. There was no looking back.
A team full of mercenaries with a bat in their hands from number 1 to 8, was something the cricketing world had seen for the first time. Since then, England has scored over 300 runs a staggering 26 times and went past 350, nine times, highest by any team in this period. Their top-six have a strike-rate of 98.94 in this period, which again is the highest by any Test playing nation.
The kind of consistency England have enjoyed with this brand of cricket is also incredible. Eoin Morgan who is just a few runs away from becoming England’s leading run-scorer in ODIs has successfully implemented the ‘Morgan model’ of cricket which is now posing some serious threat to other countries.
.@imkuldeep18 on @msdhoni‘s invaluable contribution behind the stumps and Skipper @imVkohli‘s overall captaincy #SAvIND pic.twitter.com/NIMJfT28zh
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 2, 2018
The success can be judged by the fact that days after Australia whitewashed England in the Ashes, the latter completely dismantled the same opponent in the ODI series, winning it 4-1. “It just looks like the way they play is for everyone to go really hard and Joe Root is sort of the rock in the middle. He just plays good cricket and guys bat around him,” was Smith’s assessment of England’s performance.
The Australian captain did have a valid point. When everyone is hitting the ball, there will be a collapse at some point. And, who else knows it better than India. They have faced this situation before and IPL was blamed. But, with Virat Kohli as what Steve Smith described as a rock, the Indian team can also follow the ‘Morgan model’ if they want to lift the prestigious World Cup trophy next year.
However, with 14 months left for the tournament, all the teams including India still have the time to decide if England’s brand of cricket is feasible and sustainable or not. At this moment, it looks fascinating, nevertheless.