India needs 7 batsmen

2007 Mar 07 by DreamCricket

Yes, there is nothing like a match winning all rounder but then in the present Indian team there is no one that fits the bill.

Greg Chappell put it succinctly the other day. While reiterating that the Indians have as good a chance as any team to win the World Cup the former Australian great said ``the preparation has been done. Now it is about the performance on each day."

That’s true. During the Super Eight when the participants are going to be more or less evenly matched one good day or one bad day could mean the difference between emerging World champions or being eliminated at this stage itself.

However it is also true that a certain amount of planning won’t hurt the team’s chances. A performance is based upon certain tactical moves and strategic data. Cricket after all is a mind game. Shrewd thinking that enables one team management to outwit the other is what comes out trumps ultimately. Sri Lanka’s strategy to open with two pinch hitters was the master stroke that shaped their 1996 World Cup triumph while the surprise move by the New Zealanders to open the bowling with off spinner Dipak Patel four years before led to the co-hosts notching up a World Cup record of seven successive victories.

Basic planning is a must and then depending on the situation or the strengths or weaknesses of the opposition a certain flexibility can be adopted. Chappell’s move to push Irfan Pathan up the order to No 3 was a shrewd move. But this proved to be counter productive because the Indian coach persisted with the tactic. Such strategies are based on the element of surprise, a move that the opposition least expects. Thus ambushed they are apt to lose their way.

As far as the Indian team is concerned one would reckon that things are in place. Every member of the team is aware of what his job is and what is expected of him. About the only dilemma I feel that the team management will face is whether to go in for seven batsmen and four bowlers or six batsmen and five bowlers. There are advantages and disadvantages in both moves. An extra batsman is an insurance against a collapse but then going in with a bowler short can be a strategy fraught with danger. On the other hand having an extra bowler could well mean a cushion of comfort but what can even five bowlers do if the truncated batting line up collapses like a building made with adulterated cement?

I have always advocated that the Indian team management persist with seven batsmen and four bowlers. For starters an extra batsman is a comforting thought and as I said an insurance against any collapse. Of course going in with just four bowlers can be a disturbing thought but then the Indian team has a number of options when it comes to sending down the remaining few overs. With the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Sourav Ganguly around Rahul Dravid can really rotate them around. All of them have shown that they have the ability of breaking a troublesome partnership or picking up a crucial wicket.

The Indian team management can take heart by glancing at past events in the World Cup. In most cases the triumphant campaigns have been based on seven batsmen and four bowlers. Two of the batsman have lent a hand by bowling the remaining overs between them. The West Indian teams in the early years of the tournament had the likes of Vivian Richards and Larry Gomes filling in even as the fearsome pace quartet caused the main damage. The victorious Sri Lankan team in 1996 had Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva turning their arms over to back their main bowlers. All the three Australian teams that have won the World Cup based their successful campaign on the utility or bits and pieces cricketers like Mark Waugh, Simon O’Donnell, Darren Lehmann, Steve Waugh, Michael Bevan, Ian Harvey, Andrew Symonds and Tom Moody doing their bit with the ball even as the chief damage was effected by four frontline bowlers.

The exceptions have been India in 1983 and Pakistan in 1992 who had genuine all rounders besides the batsmen and bowlers. Thus we had Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, Mohinder Amarnath and Madan Lal contributing almost equally well with bat and ball while nine years later Imran Khan and Wasim Akram provided the star turn. Yes, there is nothing like a match winning all rounder but then in the present Indian team there is no one approaching this category. So all things considered it is better they follow the West Indians, Australians and Lankans and stick with the seven batsmen and four bowler policy. Any flexibility can be displayed within this framework.