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No relief yet for India’s batting miseries
by NT Shiv Kumar
Nov 30, 2006
Not even a temporary change of leadership could reverse the fortunes for the beleaguered Indian team that continued its run of mindless batting, to gift-wrap yet another emphatic win and the ODI series to the proteas.

It looked like a perfect re-enactment of the script from the last two games- Smith winning the toss, batting first, getting his third consecutive duck against Zaheer Khan in the first over and SA getting into periodic batting jams but the innings well anchored by one of their front-line batsmen to get to a formidable total. And of course, the Indian batsmen ensuring the integrity of the script despite a shuffle in the cast of characters.

It was truly uncharacteristic of Tendulkar to walk in at number 3- a position he hates batting at- and his tentative poke and leave to Pollock was ample reflection of his mindset that was battling between team management’s dictate and his personal preference. If his psyche and his performance are the catalysts for the rest of the team, then the team jolly well accommodate his preference on where he wants to bat. John Wright, in his Indian Summers, brought out a nice little nugget of his conversation with Sachin prior to the WC 2003 – he was ready to bat anywhere but given a choice, he would open. Wright prevailed on Ganguly and sure enough Tendulkar opened and with that he opened up India’s road to the finals. India would be better served with Tendulkar the aggressor, not the anchor- regardless of the batting composition. And its time Tendulkar shed his self imposed shackles and launch a frontal attack on Pollock and Ntini. Theres just no better panacea to this great Indian epidemic called ‘batting blues’. Desperate times call for desperate measures, led by the best in business. Greg Chappell better bake that into his tactical planning.

Talking of tactics, Sehwag brought in some freshness in field placements and bowling changes, though Tendulkar bowled one over too many during the slog. He cleverly got Pathan out of the firing line to ensure he returned with tidy figures and not take the flight back home. Pathan has a big role to play in the Tests and hopefully the selectors would retain their faith in him based on his decent all-round performance today. Should he end up staying back and doing well in Tests, Sehwag gets the credit for preserving a career otherwise going the Agarkar way.

Kaif was distinctly unlucky to get run out today- a good innings from him today would have probably made it a tad difficult for Ganguly to be drafted in for the tests. But it seems like Ganguly’s inclusion is almost certain though what is not certain is his form with the bat, his recent century against domestic minnows and a ‘fighting’ 43 notwithstanding. He probably would be better served making his comeback in the home ODI series against WI and SL to make it to the WC team, rather than getting to SA and scripting his swan song. Chappell may well have laid this grand trap, seeking Ganguly’s recall!

The selectors generally never cease to defy logic but one hopes Dilip Vengsarkar uses this opportunity to test out all the WC candidates, especially the batsmen, on a level playing field. If the likes of Ganguly (in current form), Badrinath or Gambhir are good enough to replace any of the current lot, they better earn their stripes in SA – not on placid pitches of Rajkot or Nagpur.
 
More Views by NT Shiv Kumar
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