Should it be seven plus four or six plus five? No this is not a
mathematical problem that needs a solution. It refers to the
composition of the Indian team in ODIs. The Indian team management
generally goes in for seven batsmen and four bowlers and when this does
not work out thanks mainly to four bowlers being insufficient those
advocating the six batsmen and five bowler policy grab a point to push
their argument. But when this policy leads to an Indian defeat thanks
chiefly to a batting collapse those advocating the seven plus four
strategy go into the `I told you so mould.
Under normal circumstances it is always better to go for the seven plus
four theory particularly with the Indian team having a couple of
utility players among the batsmen who can turn their arm over, bowl 10
to 12 overs between them and perhaps even pick up a wicket or two.
Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh have time and again
underscored their value in this regard. Also the playing of an extra
batsman acts as an insurance against a top or middle order collapse.
The problem arises when the irregular bowlers have a bad day at the
office and concede a lot of runs or if one of the regular bowlers has
an off day. With a lot of runs stacked up against the team the Indians
with all their batting might can come a cropper and the first ODI
against England at Southampton was a prime example of how the seven
plus four theory can be exposed.
Taking the field with the six plus five composition is always a cause
for trepidation. At the back of the mind the team management knows that
they are a batsman short and a collapse could well settle the match
once and for all. In that case having the extra bowler could mean
little for even a well balanced bowling line up could still have
difficulty in defending a rather inadequate total. Or as Fridays
second ODI at Bristol almost proved even a 300 plus total which should
normally prove decisive when the team goes in with an extra bowler may
not be enough. Under the circumstances it would constitute a bold and
adventurous move. However given the conventional wisdom of the Indian
team management they are unlikely to go in too often for the six plus
five theory too often.
Actually for the current Indian team as events have proved they should
not take the field with some pre meditated theory. Either strategy
could be applied given the wicket and weather conditions, the
opposition and the situation in the series. All the same the dilemma of
whether to go in for seven plus four or six plus five has come about
since the team is bereft of an all rounder. Kapil Devs value to the
side can never be overemphasized while Manoj Prabhakar did yeoman
service for about a decade. He was the last of this ubiquitous breed to
represent India playing his final ODI in March 1996. After that the
nearest the Indian team has had to an all rounder has been Robin Singh.
With all his limitations he performed gallantly in the batting and
bowling department with his fielding of course being a bonus.
Robin played his last ODI in April 2001 and with Ajit Agarkar
flattering only to deceive the Indians have generally gone in with the
seven plus four policy while occasionally going in for the six plus
five strategy. The closest the Indians came to having an all rounder in
the new millennium was Irfan Pathan who was shaping up pretty well to
emerge as the next ubiquitous player in the ranks until Greg Chappell
ruined his career while needlessly using him conspicuously in his
damaging policy of experimentation. An all rounder is thus the answer
to Indian crickets dilemma for then the combination becomes six plus
one plus four and that could well be a winning equation. Perhaps Pathan
could still be the answer.