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Thursday, February 03, 2005

1-day Cricket - The Road Ahead for India

The Indian cricketers are taking a much wanted break and the Pakistan tour of Indian is just around the corner. In the past few series, we have seen the performance of India go from good to bad and from bad to worse. They are slowly losing the form of the World Cup of 2003 and are increasingly becoming inconsistent in both forms of the game. I take this opportunity to talk about the changes needed or options available for some of the positions in the Indian team. In this Blog, I shall concentrate solely on 1-day cricket.

Batting

Opening Slots (1, 2)
===============
Pool - Virendra Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Shikar Dhawan, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir

The openers in 1-day cricket need to take advantage of the 15 overs restriction. Needless to say, the first choice should be Veeru and Sachin - however, if it is an inconsequential game, it is good to rest Sachin (with his elbow injury hampering him more and more, he should be handled with care) and try out the other guys.

Top-order Batsmen (3,4)
===================
Pool - Rahul Dravid, Md. Kaif, S. Sriram, Y.Venugopal Rao, VVS Laxman


The 1-down and 2-down positions require batsmen who can stick around for a long time and anchor the innings. Md. Kaif as the 7th batsmen currently is a waste - he is better off at the top order, steadying the innings with his running between the wickets. Rahul Dravid should not be made to keep wickets anymore - he suffers and so does India. Once again, if it is an inconsequential match, then Dravid should be made to rest and others given a chance. Sorry, VVS does not get a natural entry into my team !

Middle-order Batsmen (5,6,7)
========================
Pool - Saurav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, Joginder Sharma, Romesh Pawar

These positions are essentially those who can give the final momentum to the innings. Ganguly is an excellent player of spin and old ball should not give him any botherations. Yuvi is a suspect against spin but can hit out. Dhoni should be made as a specialist wicket keeper in 1-dayers - his keeping is good and hopefully, his batting will also prove to be good. If it is an inconsequential match, India should think about resting Ganguly and giving others a chance.

Lower-order Batsmen (who are actually bowlers - 8,9)
========================================

Pool - Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Yusuf Pathan,Agarkar, Murali Karthik

Both Pathan and Zaheer Khan have the ability to hit the ball hard - also, they have shown the ability to bowl the balls at the right areas. Although they are the first choice bowlers, India should chose from the pool more readily than they do for batsmen - bowlers break down faster and so it is important that they are nurtured.

Tailenders (who cannot be trusted too much - 10,11)
======================================

Pool - Anil Kumble, Harbajan Singh, Balaji, Ashish Nehra
If these batsmen are out there in the middle, then you don't have much hopes anyway.


Bowling

My first choice of the bowlers would be Pathan, Zaheer, Kumble and Bajji. Again, this is subject to fitness issues and the state of the pitch. If the pitch is full of grass, then obviously it is useless to go with 2 spinners - then Balaji would be my first choice. It is surprising why Agarkar always gets a look in ahead of the others - at least, he doesn't in my team !

In summary, here are my changes from what is there today:

  1. Stop Dravid from keeping - have a specialist keeper in Dhoni
  2. Bring Ganguly and Yuvraj 1 slot down the order, so that they can take advantage of the end overs - Kaif is no good at that.
  3. Develop a hard hitting alrounder - it could be Irfan Pathan or Zaheer Khan or Yusuf Pathan or Joginder Sharma or Romesh Powar - but this person must be able to hit a quick fire 20-30 runs whenever needed.
  4. The lower order batsmen must contribute with the bat too - most of the good International sides bat real deep today. Gillespie and Mcgrath score half centuries nowadays.
  5. The bowlers must be kept injury free - for that, it is good to create a pool of bowlers, from whom India can chose. Most of the times, the Indian bowlers are injured - that should not happen.
  6. Sachin and Veeru should always be the first choice to fill in the 5th bowler's slot. The second choice should be Ganguly and after that it should be Yuvraj.


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