Saturday, March 17, 2007

Give the first 10 overs to the bowlers

That's two matches in different venues between major teams where both sides lost early wickets - NZ v England in St Lucia and the Cup opener between the West Indies and Pakistan in Jamaica. It confirms my suspicion that the opening bowlers would have more of a play due to the early starts on these relaid pitches than was anticipated before the tournament. [First clues to the pitches]
Of course, Port of Spain, where India starts its campaign on Saturday, has one of the more docile grounds, and Bangladesh is not much of a threat despite putting one across New Zealand in a pre-tournament warm-up.
It's worth speculating nevertheless if the Indian think tank will respond to what is becoming apparent about the conditions. Will we persist with the opening combo we used back home against the Windies and Lankans - Ganguly-Uthappa, Uthappa-Sehwag, Sehwag-Ganguly? Or will we opt for more stability at the top with Tendulkar or Dravid, the only two in the team who find it easy to leave the rising ball. I'm reminded of Sunny Gavaskar's formula for a Test opener - give the first hour to the bowlers, the remaining five are yours. For an ODI, that would translate into caution for 10 overs and plunder for the next 40 with wickets in hand.
You might argue about not cashing in on the initial field restrictions, but I would say that's better than losing two or three early wickets and getting bogged down in the middle on a slowing track where you need to feel free to step out of the crease. In fact, on these small grounds, fours and sixes can be had with a little enterprise even with the field spread out, especially by good players of spin.
The most out-of-the-box approach would be to open with Tendulkar AND Dravid to negotiate the first spell, and then unleash our string of hitters - Ganguly, Uthappa, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Dhoni. Midway through the tournament, if the grass and moisture dry out, we could switch back to Ganguly and Uthappa as openers.

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