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India must play seven batsmen and four bowlers
by Partab Ramchand
Oct 08, 2006
On the face of it there is no reason why India should not do well in the Champions Trophy perhaps even go all the way and win it outright for the first time. There is the home advantage factor and the Indian team is these days considered worthy opposition even at the highest level. Moreover they have an excellent record in the four editions of the tournament.

Semifinalists in 1998, runners-up to New Zealand in 2000 and joint winners with Sri Lanka in 2002 the Indians only faltered in the last competition in England two years ago when they lost to Pakistan and failed to qualify for the semifinal from their group. And this is one tournament in which India have beaten both Australia and South Africa not just once but twice.

So can India go all the way this time? Well, if there are a few factors for them there are also a few against them. One is of course the fact that the team has not won a major tournament since the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985. The NatWest Trophy triumph in England in 2002 was no doubt a significant achievement but it was still only a tri series. A more notable feat would perhaps be the victory in the Hero Cup at home in 1993-94 when the participating teams numbered five and India defeated South Africa (twice), Sri Lanka and West Indies on the way to the title triumph.

Of course their reputation as ``chokers`` especially when it comes to a title clash or a crunch game will also be ranged against them. The fact that after being installed as favourites India went down to New Zealand in the final of this very tournament six years ago in Nairobi is a telling indictment of the team faltering at the final hurdle. Two years ago in England when it came to a do-or-die encounter against Pakistan the Indians went down albeit in a close finish.

Current form and the latest ICC rankings also are against India winning the tournament. We all know what happened in the DLF Cup in Kuala Lumpur last month. Indeed it was because of this lacklustre showing that the Indians slid from third position to fifth in the ODI rankings. Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand are ahead of the Indians even though it must be said immediately that the last two are only marginally ahead. Against that Sri Lanka, West Indies and England are not far behind India. Also with Australia, England and either West Indies or Sri Lanka in the group there are no easy pickings for India even at the preliminary stage.

Still no one can deny that on paper at least the Indians have the team to win the trophy. The strong batting covers up for the lack of sting in the bowling and any lapses in the field. But the Indians have this irritating habit of not performing up to potential and this more than anything else has led to a disappointing record in major tournaments or even in tri series competitions.

A lot has been said and written about the pre-season training camps that the Indian team underwent just prior to participation in the DLF Cup. A lot has also been said and written about the policy of experimentation that has been in vogue ever since Greg Chappell took over as the coach a little over a year ago.

By now one would have felt that things should have fallen into place as far as the composition of the squad is concerned. But Chappell appears unrelenting and one would not be surprised if the experiments will continue even in a major competition like the Champions Trophy. It would be better if Chappell resists the temptation. Even Dilip Vengsarkar who has just taken over as chairman of the selection committee said in a recent interview that while there were good reasons for experimenting since ``we had to find out who was the right man for the right role this process should now stop as we need a settled batting order.``

The process of finding a settled batting order should not on the face of it be difficult. But this should revolve around the tested and trusted seven batsmen and four bowlers policy. There should be no further thought about adopting the six batsmen and five bowlers approach. India has to play to her strength and that is the batting despite the failure in Kuala Lumpur. The seven slots should be clearly identified with the flexibility being adapted according to the situation in any given match. The four bowlers should consist of three seamers and Harbhajan with ample opportunities being given to Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar to turn their arm over. These batsmen have an important role to play as bowlers and should be told accordingly to build their confidence.

As regards the batting Tendulkar and Sehwag should open with Rahul Dravid or Yuvraj coming in at No 3 depending upon the start given. The flexible approach should be adopted for positions 4 to 7 with Mahender Singh Dhoni being promoted in certain circumstances. The pinch hitter theory should be given up except in a rare case as a surprise tactic. An organized approach along these lines will lead to notable results even if the team does not go all the way and lift the trophy.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive - syndicated to dreamcricket.com)
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