Monday, September 3, 2007

Twice bitten, once shy

So that wasn't so difficult, was it? For the first time in the series, India got more than four runs an over in the first ten overs, as a full batting lineup allowed the batsmen to play without fetters, and a pleasure it was to see the old Sachin-Sourav jugalbandi - getting their eye in, and then turning the match on a dime in that over where Sachin got to Lewis with his on-the-up drives. India reverting to the traditional one-day team composition of six batsmen, keeper and four bowlers is an admission of the faulty thinking in the previous matches, where the losses were attributed by the captain to bad batting or fielding and good opposition. But the question remains why it took Dravid two losses to realise that the five bowler format sucks. And this isn't the first time, either. Earlier, he and Chappell tried using five fulltime bowlers in a Test match and flopped badly. The beneficiary then too was England who levelled a series in India that they should have lost. Here too, India should have dominated the one-day series, with Flintoff still not in peak fitness or form, and Hoggard and Sidebottom missing too. Dravid's wrong choices after winning the toss, five-bowler format, and faulty batting line-up are mainly responsible for India being 3-2 down. Now the question is whether, with the main problem fixed, India will tighten up a few other loose ends to come back from behind and win the series by beating England at both the Oval and Lord's. I believe India can, given the batting-friendly pitches and England's continuing difficulties against the spinners, especially Powar.
The joker in the pack is Dravid. Will another of his blunders cost India the series? And what could that blunder be? India has done well to play both spinners, and that's not going to change, barring injury. India has finally dropped the fifth specialist bowler, and we can safely assume that's the composition they will go with in the remaining matches. This allowed Ganguly to get a bowl eventually, and how well he did. He has always thrived in these conditions and not using him in previous matches was stupid. Anyway, one can expect more from Ganguly. The batting lineup too looked much better with the full complement of batsmen, and Karthick pushed down to number seven which is where he belongs, although his attempts at improvisation by moving towards the offstump were premeditated and thoughtless because the bowlers were aiming at full-length outside offstump. Maybe he should consult Zaheer Khan, who figured it out eventually, waited for that last ball from Chris Broad, took it on the full and put it past point for four. Coming back to the batting lineup, I would have preferred Dravid at three, as I've said earlier, given his adaptability and the rich vein of one-day form he seems to have struck, and either Rohit Sharma or Robin Uthappa at five. But given the flatness of the tracks, and his aggressive style of batting, it may not be all that bad sticking with Gambhir at three either.
It's in the handling of the bowling and field placements that Dravid's poor captaincy was on display again, and it is this factor that can cost India the series now. Agarkar went for 40 runs in three overs and Dravid should have brought in Ganguly in his place earlier. Our main strike bowler Zaheer Khan should always be supported with two slips when he is bowling with the new ball, and too many opportunities were allowed to slip through vacant positions. You can't control dropped catches, but field positions are simply a matter of good planning. The other chink was Sachin Tendulkar's bowling. He always makes me wince when he chooses to bowl inane off-spin or slow medium pace when the bulk of his wickets in both ODIs and Tests have come from legspin. I remember that fabulous googly with which he bamboozled Moin Khan for a vital breakthrough in a Test match in Pakistan. Maybe Sachin is influenced by the awe with which commentators keep reminding us how he's such a genius because he can do everything. More than Sachin's choice of bowling, however, I was disappointed with Dravid keeping him on even after Collingwood had clearly got on top of him, and Sachin continuing with the same kind of bowling and continuing to get hammered, when there were so many better options. It did not matter in Headingley where Duckworth-Lewis on top of our strong batting put the match beyond England. But this is the sort of thing that could lose the series at the Oval or Lord's.


Soulberry said...

The best from one's cellar is reserved for a special occasion, and Sachin deemed this as one.

He slipped down to where his best were bottled for posterity and came out with one of his choice that he felt would suit the occasion. India was after all on the brink of diaster at 3-1, never a better time than now to uncork one of those moulding bottles!

And wasn't it worth visiting the channel for a sip out of vintage Tendulkar?

India is bumbling along as a team with their simple superiority just keeping them still in the game. Any other side than England might have sealed the series by now with all the help they've had from the Indians.

An England fan may take that as wise caution in these days of euphoria. Of course, KP could well play an innings worth his place yet. Of course, England may well win the remaining two games. But it would be fallacious to assume England beat a better performing team. Certainly, they might have ended up beating an inherently better team, which might be cause clebre for the average English fan of ODI game.

Did I just say that? An English fan of the ODI game? Don't they look down upon this which the former subjects set such store by? Australia better watch out for the Empire is ready to strike back in 2009! (That's according to the English press of course)

Soulberry said...

Nice game today by the way. :)

tubby said...

I guess you are being harsh on Dravid. If he posts faith repeatedly in lame ducks like Munaf Agarkar and Karthik and they let him down, then its not captain to fault. he is as good as the team he gets.

And Dravid has made up for his soft captaincy by attacking batting he has displayed so far.

I think before delivering a verdict on Dravid as a captain, need to wait till series is finalised

Sumit Chakraberty said...

yes soulberry, this is the best i've seen of sachin in the last three years and it's a joy. pity his injuries will not let him keep this up much longer though... tubby, no team is going to have everyone playing well. i know agarkar can give it all away very quickly, but why is rp singh not preferred? why play karthick, that too at number three, when you can call upon the likes of uthappa and rohit sharma, who has been unfortunate not to have got a single game in spite of being the only guy to get a century in our domestic T20 - in just 45 balls against a decent side like gujarat.