Thursday, March 17, 2011

Victory has many Fathers; Let them all be !

Victory has many Fathers; Let them all be !
Disclaimer: This is my most serious post ever. I have never been so serious. No, not even while I was waiting for my daughter’s arrival through a complicated Cesarean section 12 seasons ago. I am so very dead serious because I am seeing a good chance of winning ‘A Cup for Mr. Tendulkar’ is going up in smoke thanks to a few rectifiable factors. So I am making a serious attempt to find a way of of the mess.
I have often been accused of trivializing the serious issues with my mirth. It hurts but what else can one do when the team one adores continues to play like idiots when it matters the most.
Let us take stock. India are No. 1 side in Tests and No. 2 in ODI format. They won the T-20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007 when none expected them to. They white-washed New Zealand recently with an under strength team. They also played pretty well without the bigwigs in the recently concluded ODI series in South Africa before going down 3-2.
But what happens to India when an ICC event comes up ? It perhaps isn’t Team India that turns up. It must be some other team. You, Me and Hum don’t know this team. This is my inference. Why do I think so ? Let us understand what is happening.
Captain not so Cool
Why does the Cool go Captain Fool during ICC events. His fixation with certain players and dislike for some others has cost us dear. It was His Highness Ravindra Jadeja during the T-20 World Cup. It happens to be Piyush Chawla and Munaf Patel this time.
Why does Dhoni want Munaf to bowl at death ? It invariably means instant death for the team. Munaf doesn’t have the pace. He can’t reverse swing and he bowled his last yorker about 9 years ago and that too accidentally.
Batting Disorder
Dhoni also is experimenting too much with the batting line up. It is fine if and when it works. But we saw it went wrong not once, not twice but thrice. Why do you want to upset the rhythm ? Well, Dhoni should know better. Both Virat and Yusuf stand undermined in confidence. If we want to win from here, Virat should bat higher and that means higher than Gautam.
Gambhir is capable of switching gears quicker. Hence he should be made to understand the importance of batting at No. 4. Yusuf should never bat before Yuvraj. He perhaps gets complacent when he knows there still are Dhoni, Yuvi and Virat in the pavilion waiting to bat. Best of Yusuf has come when he has batted with back to the wall with only the tail to follow. Let him carry on with his brand of Cricket.
Power Play Problems
Time and again, things have fallen apart during the Batting Power Play. This happened in the 5th ODI in the South Africa series. Yusuf Pathan was indulging in savage hitting with a spread out field scoring 8 -10 runs an over without breaking much sweat. Then they took BPP and Yusuf fell promptly. India collapsed against England and then were decimated by South Africa. Why is it so happening ?
The answer is simple. We have a batting line up full of gigantic Egos. Left alone, they have the capabilities to clear any ground in the world. When the batting power play comes into action, somehow our boys think they have to hit every ball and score may be 100 runs from those 5 overs. And thus we end up getting all out from unbelievable positions.
So what do we do ? Simple again. Tell the boys, “Never bother about the Batting Power plays. When you have wickets in hands, runs will come. Don’t throw your wicket.” Sehwag and Pathan can be excused to a little extent for being impetuous but not others. Against England, Yuvraj and Dhoni got out in back to back overs playing injudicious shots and India were bowled out for at least 20 – 25 runs short of what would have been. Against South Africa, Sachin and Gambhir fell in back to back overs and that turned the tide.
Reverse Swing
Like it or not, Asian teams did well with reverse swing in the past. But now, all other teams have picked up and are in fact doing better. Taking BPP once the ball starts to reverse has proved counter productive. Even England lost the plot against India during BPP against Zaheer Khan’s reverse swing.
What is the solution ? Take BPP earlier. If we have wickets in hands with batsmen in good nick, take BPP soon after the 15 overs. Then play those overs just like the first 15 overs. What are the benefits ?
1] Sachin / Sehwag or Sachin / Gambhir or Sehwag / Gambhir or Gambhir / Kohli pair can manage to score about 30 – 35 or even 40 runs from these overs without much risk. The wickets will be in hand for the final assault.
2] When the ball reverses, we are not compelled to take BPP. The opponents will not be risking close in fielders to prevent singles during this period even if the ball is reversing. This gives an option for settled batsmen to rotate strike and strike big when you get an opportunity. Four singles and a boundary can still get you 40 runs from 5 overs between overs 41 and 45. But with lesser batsmen at the crease, bowlers like Steyn and Malinga can become lethal. So earlier they play the BPP, better it will be.
3] 2 overs each lesser from bowlers like Steyn, Malinga or Gul during the death means that much lesser problem. Fast bowlers and reverse swing will not be so lethal without the field support and when in form top order batsmen at the crease. This is what happened when Ross Taylor caned the Pakistan bowling.
Middle Over Crisis
Like the middle age crisis, Team India faces middle over crisis. Sachin and Gambhir inexplicably slowed down during middle overs. It isn’t possible to bat in fifth gear all the time. But keep it in fourth or at least third during middle overs. When a run rate of 8.5 RPO drops to just about 6.5 during middle overs, it allows the opponents to regroup. Allows lesser bowlers to squeeze in a lot of overs. And thus we end up with a lot lesser runs than what could have been.
Team > Individual Milestones
The ‘Mantra’ should be to keep the runs trickling. Personal milestones should have no roles and only the interest of team should matter. It was annoying to see Yusuf Pathan’s generosity when he slowed down to allow Yuvraj to reach his 50 against Ireland. Just imagine if India get knocked out of the tourney in a tight tie for fourth place with England. It will be remembered that India lost the cup in a bid to give one of their players a World Cup record. Duminy will tell us that is not done by South Africans.
Bowling Woes
As of now we are unlikely to find a drastic solution. I was right from the beginning criticizing the selection of Nehra, Munaf and Chawla. I would have preferred any three from Irfan Pathan, R P Singh, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha and Sreesanth.
The troika I mentioned bring down the stock of the team thanks also to their fielding and absolute lack of batting. Whatever might have been his problems in longer version of Cricket, Irfan has done well in shorter formats and is a wicket taking bowler. Praveen Kumar is a loss, but he isn’t exactly a Steyn or Malinga.
No use crying over split milk. What can we do with the available stock ? Bring back Sreesanth and give him some confidence. The Captain needs to back all his players. Not the selected ones like Chawla. Bring in Ashwin. He is a wicket taking bowler and can bowl at death or slog. Forget about bowling becoming one-dimensional. It is not. Bhajji and Ashwin are totally different bowlers and Pathan is the non-spinner who keeps things tight.
Squeeze in 10 – 12 overs from Yusuf and Yuvraj but keep faith in main bowlers. Sreesanth and not Zaheer is the best exponent of reverse swing in India. Bowl him in 4 spells of 3, 3, 2 and 2 overs like Steyn does. He just needs some support. Can we expect that from Dhoni ?
Fielding the Best 11
Well, they showed some commitment while fielding against Saffers. If we keep Munaf and Nehra out, one third of the fielding woes are solved. Shield Bhajji from mid-off and mid-on. Keep Sachin in the Third man and Bhajji in the mid-wicket / square leg. Zaheer is another slow mover who can be shielded in the fine-leg. Virat at point adds to the pressure. And we can frequently bring in Raina to cover up for slow movers.
So finally I would go in with…
If we still don’t win, we will have two new scape-goats: Sreesanth and Ashwin. Makes no difference. Let them be !
If we go onto win… Victory has many fathers; let them all be !
Govind Raj Shenoy for DieHard Cricket Fans

No comments :

Post a Comment