Monday, March 21, 2011

As things stand for India ahead of World Cup 2011 Quarter finals:

Summary of Indian show in 2011 cricket WC league phase:

1) Ind go into QF without having chased against a Test team.

2) Ind had top order collapses each time they batted second (against minnows) and lower middle order collapses each time they batted first (against Test sides).

3) Outcome of pt.#2: The extra batsman, taken at the cost of a 5th bowler, has been wasted EVERY TIME India batted first.

4) Paradoxically it has been useful to have the comfort of a 7th batsman in the top order collapses against the minnows, although the 7th guy was never really needed.

5) The Yusuf Pathan problem: In the last 4-5 months Yusuf Pathan's performances while batting first & batting second are like chalk and cheese. It was no different in WC league phase. He left his mark in the only chase he participated in, but sank without a trace in 'bat 1st' innings.
[As per cricinfo statsguru, in the last 14 matches he averages 82 with bat in the 9 matches he batted 2nd but a meagre avg of 12 in those he batted first. Even his overall career stats are heavily tilted towards batting 2nd - avg of 42 against 22]

6) Yuvraj Singh is impersonating 1½ players (combining bat and ball) and so far making a good show of it with some aid from luck. In Sachin and Yuvaraj, India practically have 3 players with 2 heads showing. One of these two have ALWAYS fired in the matches played by India.

7) Bowlers – Bowling & tail end batting:

a) Indian bowlers are not able to support Zaheer / Harbhajan. They are really looking like having only 40 overs in them - and that includes the contributions of Yuvraj and other part timers.

b) Worse, tail enders have not got a bat in any of the two Indian chases. And when they did - in the 'bat 1st' games - they have collapsed each time they were required to contribute.

This is vastly different from the period before WC, when the bowlers were defending seemingly dead matches and doing so with both bat and ball. Crucially, the batting failure includes Harbhajan who was changing matches with bat for the last 4 months.


Pt#7a, combined with pt#3, are reasons why MSD needs to have 5 bowlers in the Indian playing X1 for QF.

Pt#7b, combined with pt#4, are reasons he will be pushed hard to take that decision. For pt#7b, adding another non batting bowler in liew of a batsman lengthens a non-performin tail further.

The options are:

A) Take a gamble: Ask Bhajji to take responsibility as no. 7 (25 runs is all he must look to make each time he comes out – and we know he has it in him), ask ALL batsmen to take responsibility ANYWAY for the side to play with 5th bowler instead of 7th batsman. MSD can take comfort from pt#6 and take the plunge.

B) Take a reasonable gamble: Get someone like Irfan Pathan in the 15 man squad instead of a non batting / non fielding bowler (Gavaskar apparently suggests Ojha – who is stupedous in later overs while defending scores but will be one more non batting / non fielding bowler). Even in his worst days as a bowler Irfan was generally a decent batsman (can get quick 25-30 runs) and very decent in the field. He can replace the 7th batsman.

C) Inspire the bowlers: Play 7 batsmen and ask BCCI to spruce up the pitches so that the 4 bowlers are enough to handle oposition batting with the help of conditions. Batsmen will need to take responsibility and be suitably ‘ugly and effective’ for periods of play to support this strategy. Also, going by the South Africa experience, the good bowling conditions also inspired the bowlers to own their roles and bat well down the order. That will be a huge plus.

D) Do nothing: Play 7 batsmen and continue hoping that your 4 bowlers (who will certainly NOT bowl more than 30 to 32 worthy overs) are supported by 18-20 good overs from part timers: steep ask in batting beauties.

I suspect the team management and the selectors will tend to go the option D way, the one that looks most useless to me. The other options may or may not come off but at least those will be definite attempts to succeed, instead of hoping.

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