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?


Golandaaz said...

Excellent piece. 100% agree balance is missing from the indian team. Playing 2 spinners with Yuvraj, Sachin, Ganguly as the 5th bowling option along with 2 seamers will win us games at larger grounds like Lords and Oval. We now need to win the next one and create the cushion going into a best of 3 series.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

Thanks Golandaaz. Dravid did learn from the first ODI and picked batting in the next day-nighter. So let's hope the penny drops regarding the team composition too. I just hope he does not take the 'safe' option of leaving out one of the spinners at Old Trafford.

samir said...

Sumit, I agree that playing Patel is a bit too much. He brings nothing to the team (I know I sound like a stuck record when it comes to him!): he can't field, and he hasn't recovered his bowling form. Play Khan, Singh, Chawla and Powar and be done with it. Make the trio of Yuvraj, SRT, SG bowl 10 (hmmm..I seem to be repeating what Golandaaz just said! :)) But six batsmen, one wicketkeeper and four bowlers is a formula that works well for both forms of the game. Too much tinkering brings disaster.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

Samir: Ya it applies to both forms of the game. Remember Mumbai where we let the English square the Test series because of the Chappell-Dravid five-bowler theory? The same indecisiveness in a different form: we wanted to play three spinners but didn't want to leave out a seamer: so we picked them all!

Soulberry said...

5 bowlers and chase doesn't make sense at all.

What makes worse sense is 5 regular bowlers give away as many runs as 4 regular + 1 middling bowler + 2 irregular ones.

I've stopped fuming over the fielding - it just isn't good for my heart.

Anonymous said...

Dravid s obsession with 5 bowler theory when none of them is a decent bat is fatal for the team. We have lost many of the games with this theory. Even if take 5 bowlers, then most of them are cuckoos with the bowl and field too. Likes of Munaf and Powar would be the worst fielders in the history of game, and then you cant expect the likes of Powar to display some cricketing sense to try and rotate the strike.

And from 6 batsmen, 1 of them Dinesh Karthik is a waste and is being given more than necessary opportunities in ODI. His record himself is pathetic. 2 50s in 27 ODIs is ridiculous when you expect him to be a #3.

The reason why we had stupendous success in 2002-2004 in ODIs was the 7+4 batsmen formula with Dravid keeping the wkts. So why not apply the same formula here.

Why not have a better fielder in Uthappa in the team rather than KD who makes a simple catch look great and drops a simple catch.

Homer said...

Finally something we can all agree on..

Dravid flummoxes me with his captaincy decisions at times - if Yuvraj can get 7 overs, where was Sachin?

And the next time he wins the toss, can we please bat first- even if we are playing on a greentop?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

homer, doing the wrong thing after winning the toss and not enforcing follow-ons - these are failings dravid and ganguly have shared in equal measure. now dravid's added the five-bowler theory to the mix

Soulberry said...

let me refer you to V. Srivatsa's article at cricketnext.com.

He begins with hilarious witticism but dips into political correctness from the body of his article onwards. But that initial "fatherly chiding" is worth a read and a laugh.