Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Can't have your cake and eat it too
Every time Dravid loses a match, he blames it on the batting or bowling or fielding - never the leadership. So it was on Tuesday when he said the big difference between the sides was the fielding. Now, that's not going to change overnight. So are we to take it that India is conceding the rest of the matches? Yes, the fielding was one aspect of the loss in the third ODI at Edgbaston, but that's a given with this Indian one-day side. The point is to look at things that were more in our control, such as the decision to play five bowlers. It clicked in the second ODI at Bristol because all the batsmen thrived and with reason: we were batting first, without much pressure, in the sunny afternoon of a day-nighter on a belter of an outfield with short boundaries - it doesn't get much easier than that. More often than not, however, a couple of the batsmen will flop, as on Tuesday, and that's why the composition of an ODI team has evolved over 30 years into a standard one that most teams follow: six batsmen, a keeper and four bowlers, getting 10 overs out of a couple of batsmen who can turn their arm over, as Collingwood did for England. If there's a great all-rounder in the side, like a Flintoff or a Kapil Dev, that's a bonus. But you can't go into a match with five full-time bowlers, lamenting the lack of an all-rounder. And we do have batsmen in the team who can match Collingwood's bowling - Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar were not used at all. We were on course to chase down England's 281 until Yuvraj ran out of batting partners and had to play with the likes of Powar and Chawla who could not even rotate the strike, and finally Zaheer Khan who did him in by not running. Dravid's dilemma is that he wants to play two spinners but doesn't want to leave out a seamer. It is this lack of decisiveness that cost us the Edgbaston match more than anything else. It would've been a bold decision to go in with two spinners if it had been accompanied by a decision to leave out one of the three seamers. To leave out a batsman is a stupid move that will lose us two matches out of three on average, and win us the odd match like Bristol where the absence of a batsman is not felt. As it turned out, Munaf Patel bowled only five overs at Edgbaston, and Yuvraj bowled seven. So if we have correctly identified the English weakness against spin, we should've played another batsman, giving somebody like young Rohit Sharma a chance in Munaf's place. The trade-off for playing the extra spinner is the problem of managing the power play overs - but surely Ganguly can be trusted to chip in with five overs on an English pitch. In fact, he might have given away fewer than the seven runs an over that Munaf conceded. We might still have lost the match but at least Dravid would've given the team every chance of winning instead of hobbling it from the outset. Will Dravid please put up his hand and own up that it was his decision that cost India the Edgbaston match, more than the fielding?