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7 + 4 or 6 + 5!
by Partab Ramchand
Aug 26, 2007
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 Friday’s 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 Dev’s 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 cricket’s 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.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
  India vs Australia - Batting and bowling worries for the hosts
  Future of Indian cricket is in good hands
  Future bright for Irfan Pathan
  Basil D'Oliveira was a mighty fine utility player
  Ashwin is a stayer, not a sprinter!
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