Australia drop, but Pakistan drop back

Adam Zampa and Shaheen Afridi find form. Is Hardik Pandya India's most important player?

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Well, ol’ Davey Warner went long, took Marsh with him, and Pakistan dropped the kinds of catches only Australia do. But they came good in the end to restrict Australia to a sub-400 total, which sounds stupid when you think about it. Pakistan started almost as well, Australia dropped the kinds of catches that only Pakistan do. Australia lost Maxwell as a safe option, but Stoinis chipped in with two huge wickets. Without vice-captain Shadab Khan the batting wasn’t long enough once Adam Zampa took wickets.

Pakistan are only still in this tournament because it goes on forever. Australia shorten as a second favourite ahead of New Zealand to win the whole thing.

The Australian spinners (JK)

Adam Zampa started this tournament with no runs to play with and a dewy ball. But so did Glenn Maxwell, and then against South Africa Maxwell outbowled him again. And then in the third game, Zampe was horrible to start, before bringing it all back to win.

Today was the first game in which Maxwell looked like the part-timer, and could only get through five overs. Fair to say that before that his figures suggested he was impossible to hit the ball away from. Pakistan had no such issues. But finally, Zampa came back. With Pakistan four down, it was clear two wickets were going to make this messy, especially without Shadab Khan.

Zampa’s final spell was 3/15 and won the match. In the first 21 overs, he bowled in this World Cup, Zampa had one wicket. That was midway through the Sri Lanka game, where he looked like he was struggling to even stay in the side. Since then he has bowled in fifteen overs and taken eight wickets. All against Sri Lanka and Pakistan as well.

Australia are hoping Maxwell’s form, more or less, holds up. But they can’t win this World Cup if Zampa doesn’t take wickets.

David Warner (SAK)

Warner is among the only 3 active players with over 1,000 runs in World Cups. He also has the fourth-best average of all-time for batters with at least 1000 runs in the tournament, only behind Rohit Sharma among active batters. It may not be fair to compare across eras, but the numbers still imply that he has been extremely consistent in the mega-event. He was the second-highest run-getter the last time as well, only one run behind Rohit again.

Warner averages 60 and strikes at 99 against Pakistan in ODI cricket. Now you can see that a lot of these games are quite old, and he never played them between the two World Cups. Maybe players prefer certain opponents, but I can’t be sure about that. Pakistan didn’t help themselves dropping him a couple of times as well.

We’ve talked a lot about Australia’s struggles against spin bowling in recent times. However, David Warner absolutely murders wrist spin, while the rest of the batters are more meh against it. Alex Carey was the only batter who really struggled against leggies, and he didn’t play today.

But Pakistan would have hoped that in replacing Shadab Khan, Usama Mir would get to bowl the other guys. Instead his World Cup debut against Australia with a well-set Warner and Marsh at the Chinnaswamy. And he also dropped Warner earlier. Tough day at work.

David Warner led SRH to the 2016 IPL final where they defeated RCB in their home ground, scoring an impactful 69 off 38 balls in the match. So his T20 numbers are insane, not only does he average 54, but he also does that while striking at over 10 runs per over. And this is his second ODI century here in 3 games. He clearly loves batting here, anyone would to be fair. His attacking game means he can get a lot of boundaries in what is a fairly small ground in terms of dimensions compared to the other World Cup venues.

Today was a World Cup game. Against Pakistan. At the Chinnaswamy. Does it get any better for David Warner who was due a big score in this World Cup?

Mitch Marsh loves opening the batting (SAK)

Obviously, Travis Head’s loss was a massive blow for the Aussies. But it is very clear from the way Marsh bats, that he prefers pace on the ball and can hit boundaries at will in the Powerplay.

You can see that he also slowed down against spin today - that is not an intent issue, but he just can’t attack spin the same way. But batting with Warner really helped him build a proper innings and bring up his second ODI hundred.

The drops (JK)

There was a point in this match when it looked like a drop-off. Pakistan had already allowed David Warner to make quite a few extra runs, and then Australia did it as well. The Sean Abbott drop was like a matador allowing the bull to go past him.

Oh, and this graph from CricViz was before there was another drop. So I don’t have the total number, but they might have been after three and a half matches a 50/50 catch chance this World Cup. And yet this tournament is so long that they have a chance to qualify. Eventually, they are going to take catches, and they’re clearly not this bad at it, I don’t know if any team could be.

There is a good sign in this, when you drop this many catches, it means your bowlers are actually creating a lot of chances. The glass is half full, even when you piss in it.

Australian collapse (JK)

Australia should have made 400 in this game and ended it there. There were two reasons they didn’t.

It would be hard to slam a 200-run opening partnership. But there is no doubt they really struggled from the 17th over onwards. I don’t know if this was the spinners or the fact they decided on purpose to slow down. But they were poor during this period for a team with no wickets lost. They were 143 runs after 17 overs, the next 17 they added 116 with two set batters at the crease. But you can see the other issue, they lost a lot of wickets at the end.

This might play in with the Warner/Marsh going slow thing, because you look at this team and they are not set up to smash it with their lower order consistently. With Stoinis, Maxwell and Cummins they have some good guys. But Maxwell will usually be out, Stoinis takes a while to get going and Cummins is more miss than hit. So you will also have Inglis and Marnus around.

Saud Shakeel’s heel (JK)

I think Saud Shakeel is one of the most interesting recent batting prospects. He seems to have seven shots for every ball against spin. Though, he has now been dismissed a lot by spin in ODI cricket. And something about that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. So I looked up his strike rate, and I got it instantly.

The man is attacking spinners and getting dismissed in part because he really struggles with hitting boundaries off the quicks. His dismissal today was to look for his pull, but the ball was too full and wide. Getting caught at cover playing a pull is quite a trick.

Pakistan’s bowling is a problem (SAK)

Pakistan have been the 2nd worst bowling team in the competition on economy rates. That is just not a good look for them when you consider that they were pretty good with the ball in matches between the two World Cups, and now only Sri Lanka (who don’t have 2 of their main bowlers) are worse. Now obviously, no Naseem and Shadab being unable to land the ball doesn’t help. But Rauf has been expensive, and Shaheen has been far from his best too.

I took the screenshot of the pitch map on the feed around the 15th over. Their pacers were all over the place with their line and lengths. It wasn’t even a lot of fancy shots, the Aussie openers just timed the ball really well. But they did play attacking cricket which probably disturbed the bowlers’ lengths.

Before today, only 2 ODIs played at the ground in the last 5 years. So we can’t draw a lot of conclusions from that. But we’ve seen in the IPL that this is a high-scoring venue - a graveyard for bowlers, a paradise for batters.

Shaheen Shah Afridi was the only bowler who looked like a threat today. He bowled really well with the old ball and created a chance with the new ball. His death bowling is a positive sign for Pakistan going ahead. Ifti kept things tight, partly helped by Marsh not taking him down. But the rest of the unit had an absolutely forgettable outing.

Rauf did seem to bowl slightly better in the death overs, but he was taken to the cleaners for the rest of the game.

Babar Azam (CS)

Babar Azam has not scored big in this World Cup yet. He has one half-century in four innings. But, his failure to pick up from where Imam and Abdullah left off meant that Pakistan had two relatively new batters at the crease when they needed to keep the momentum going.

5 vs Netherlands

10 vs Sri Lanka

50 vs India

18 vs Australia

When Hardik Pandya rolled his ankle, and knee, and went into a position only yoga instructors made of rubber usually try, it looked bad. That he tried to bowl on made it feel more like a short-term injury than a long-term one. Rohit Sharma didn’t seem to worry.

But no one should be sleeping on how important Hardik Pandya is to India’s chances. There are more famous players, faster bowlers and better batters, but is there anyone more crucial to India’s chances?

Today made me think, is Hardik Pandya the most important player for India’s World Cup hopes?

Think about how you feel about his replacement right now. Unless you are all in on Lord Shakur, chances are you don’t think he can replace Hardik Pandya. I mean to start with, one can bat as high as number five in a normal batting order, and the other is a number eight. The sheer number of runs difference only tells part of the story.

This is a little unfair to the Lord because he is a bowling all-rounder. But since the last World Cup Hardik’s bowling - infrequent as it is - has been a different class. He is certainly the best sixth bowler in cricket, and if he’d bowled more he’d be up there with Marco Jansen and Ravi Jadeja being the best fifth bowler. Shardul is a bowler who has skills, but his lack of elite accuracy, pace and height means he almost needs to hustle players once the ball gets old.

That shows up in the figures of all the World Cup bowlers since the last edition, he is the most expensive in ODIs. His average does mean he is taking wickets. But he is certainly not keeping any pressure on while doing it.

Hardik goes at 0.7 runs an over less in that time. It’s a massive difference. But there is also when the bowl. Shardul is actually good in the middle overs, the same economy  for both of them. But Thakur actually averages more. The problem isn’t in those overs, he’s a really good strike weapon in here. But India want to use him in the powerplay and also at the death.

That is where Shardul doesn’t work at all. This is average, and you can see that he can’t take wickets at the top, and the same happens at the end of the innings as well. A Hardik replacement needs to do both.

This is the strike rate, it is really clear that at the death he gets smashed. He’s going at 1.5 runs a ball at the end. They are not going to feel confident with that in the knockout matches.

The powerplay is also an issue. He is the most expensive bowler since the last World Cup and has the second-worst average. He doesn’t replace Hardik at all. But I noticed something else here, the other bowler struggling in the powerplay has been Mohammad Shami.

And this is important because India will probably not use one player to replace Hardik, because the truth is you can’t.

Like even if Shami comes in, his bowling at the end of the powerplay is weirdly horrible. That is the Hardik spot, and even though he is a frontline bowler, he obviously can’t bat. So that leaves you with R Ashwin.

It is actually mad that so far Shardul Thakur has managed to keep Mohammad Shami and R Ashwin out. I call this the Evan Gulbis condition. He was a professional cricketer in Victoria who could bowl a little, and bat a little, but did neither well enough to be picked.

His last T20 match was a semi-final in the Big Bash, where he wasn’t needed with the ball, and was listed to come in at number eight and wasn’t used. So the Melbourne Stars looked at this and decided they didn’t need him for the final. As their analyst, I disagreed. He was an insurance player, and when he was in the team they batted faster up the top.

For the final, they kept the Renegades to 145 runs, and then they batted. Their openers Marcus Stoinis and Ben Dunk went far slower than usual. This is the Gulbis issue. Without him, Adam Zampa was batting at eight. And when top orders look up and see that, they can’t fully attack. No one thought Gulbis would score a lot, or bowl out his overs. That wasn’t the point.

Shardul Tharkur was the Evan Gulbis of India. His job was to make the batting look and feel deep enough that Gill and Rohit could attack at the top. He wasn’t in the side to bowl ten overs or make a lot of runs. Because he can’t do that. So he can’t replace Hardik.

But the truth is, no one can. The best ODI all-rounders in the world right now are all not playing in this World Cup in that role. Ben Stokes has no knees, Jason Holder is back at home, Shakib al Hasan is injured, and if Hardik is limping, then only Ravi Jadeja is left.

That is the crazy thing, India has two of the best all-rounders in the world at the same time. Not Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali. Not Mitch Santner and Rachin Ravindra. And not Marco Jansen. The combination of these two players allows for the most flexible team at this World Cup. They may still be the best side without Hardik, but they lose their endless flexibility.

If you wanted to replace Hardik, the only way to do it is with two players. Either SKY or Ishan would have to help with the batting. And with the ball Mohammad Shami or R Ashwin would come in. Those two changes mean that Shardul comes out for a bowler, and Hardik would be replaced by Sky or Ishan.

Even with another great all-rounder in the team, Hardik is so important that replacing him means you get a shorter batting lineup and fewer bowling options. Do you know how rare that is? Kohli, Rohit, Bumrah and Kuldeep are some of the best players in the World, but there are people to replace them. You cannot replace Hardik Pandya, not even with all the Evan Gulbises and Shardul Thakurs in the world.

India are so good, that they can probably handle a major injury and still win. But even with that Hardik Pandya is the most important player for India’s World Cup hopes.