Akshar Patel © Getty Images
Akshar Patel © Getty Images

India have often banked on batting first and putting runs on the board with batting as their strength. Of late, however, things have not gone quite smooth for India; one of the reasons for it is the failure of the lower order-batting, explains Nikhil Popat.

India were in a fantastic position in the second One-Day International (ODI) against Zimbabwe. The openers had put on 112 in 26 overs. They had looked set for a score of well over 300 at that point. Unfortunately, they kept losing wickets at regular intervals, and scored a mere 77 in the last 10 overs, losing as many as six wickets. ALSO READ: India beat Zimbabwe by 62 runs in 2nd ODI to clinch series

This is not something new for India. In 2015 they have batted first 10 times (with one washout against Australia). Of those 10, they have not lasted the 50 overs thrice: two of these came against England in Australia and one against Bangladesh.

If we see how India has batted in the last ten overs in the seven games that India has lasted 50 overs this year, one can observe a pattern here which is illustrated even more by the table below:

Opposition

Venue

Score

Run-rate

40 overs

Last 10

40 overs

Last 10

Australia

MCG

206/4

61/4

5.15

6.1

Pakistan

Adelaide

217/2

83/5

5.42

8.3

South Africa

MCG

227/2

80/5

5.67

8.0

Bangladesh

MCG

205/3

97/3

5.12

9.7

Bangladesh

Dhaka

227/3

90/3

5.67

9.0

Zimbabwe

Harare

165/5

90/1

4.12

9.0

Zimbabwe

Harare

194/2

77/6

4.85

7.7

India suffered collapses in the first three matches of the year in Australia, losing more than four wickets thrice and not quite scoring as expected despite having wickets in hand for the last ten overs.

Their best performance came when they hammered 97 runs in the last 10 overs in the quarter-final against Bangladesh in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. They lost to Australia in the next match before being blanked in the first two ODIs against Bangladesh.

In the third ODI India scored 90 runs thanks to MS Dhoni playing through and Stuart Binny and Suresh Raina giving good support. Interestingly, even in their best game against Bangladesh, the runs came because India had a set Rohit Sharma at the crease to take toll.

That is something that has been missing for India in the recent one-dayers. In the first game against Zimbabwe, India scored 90 in last 10 because they had two set batsmen in Ambati Rayudu and Binny. India need to plan better. They need to get players in the lower order to fire right from the word go. ALSO READ: Stuart Binny proving his worth as premier all-rounder for India

In the second ODI against Zimbabwe, they lost six wickets in pursuit of runs and scored only 77. Any good team would happily take the momentum from it and make India pay; India got away as Zimbabwe were not quite up for it.

It is not a recent issue as well. The following table shows how India have not quite been at the top in terms of finishing the innings. Below are the numbers for batsmen batting in position No. 5 to No. 7 in ODIs since January 2014 batting first for their team.

Team

I

Runs

HS

Ave

SR

4s

6s

New Zealand

58

1625

170*

39.63

135.07

135

73

South Africa

51

1719

162*

55.45

114.98

136

50

Bangladesh

46

1394

101

34

97.21

126

19

Australia

51

1420

102

30.86

96.99

123

34

England

60

1791

129

32.56

96.54

132

49

India

59

1393

100

29.63

96.40

126

27

Sri Lanka

75

1855

139*

28.1

88.54

150

39

New Zealand top the table with a superb strike rate. Not surprisingly, India are languishing at the bottom half of the table, just above Sri Lanka. India’s average does not make a good reading as well. They have hit more sixes than only Bangladesh, a statistic that speaks volumes of how bad India’s batting lower down the order has been.

For the most part, Ajinkya Rahane, Raina, Dhoni have taken this spots with the odd juggling between Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Unfortunately, neither have played the cameos India need lower down the order in the 50-over format.

Dhoni stressed on the point of India being unable to score big since the lower order seldom contributed with quick runs. He promoted himself to No. 4 in the ODIs against Bangladesh, thereby pushing Raina down.

With Jadeja firing more cold than hot, India may try out Binny in his place as the latter has shown good approach in the limited opportunities that he has got of late. With South Africa coming, India will need their lower order to get their act together and get the big scores going again.

(Nikhil Popat is a cricket lover and a PotterHead. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)