Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Game Begins

India Vs England (played on 27th Feb 2011 at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Banglore)

Having posted 339 on the board, many would have thought (incl me) India should have won the game comfortably. Thank God India did not get defeated at the end of the day.

Had India won this game comfortably, we would have made a statement to the world about our supremacy.

Had England won this game with 2 or 3 over’s to spare?
Every Indian would have whole heartedly agreed that it was Brilliant Strauss and nothing we could do about it. After all the logic holds good that when No Team can stop Sehwag, then it also holds good that No Indian Team would have stopped Strauss that day.

May be we might have cribbed about our bowling and fielding and little bit of blame game on Dhoni... However we would have easily forgiven our cricketers for having a bad day if England beat us comfortably. After all, a strong Australian outfit can lose a game to SA after posting 434 runs on the board, losing to England after 338 would not have reflected badly.

But today the whole world is speculating the game because of the result "TIE".
When we beat comprehensively we like it. When we get beaten comprehensively we accept it. But when it is a tie, why not overwhelm the result?

Why do we want to speculate Dhoni moves? Why do we say Dhoni did not put pressure on batsman by bringing the fielders close in (after all a compulsive PP got the result)? Why Bhajji, Zaheer, Munaf, Chawla looked ordinary? Why the part time bowling of Yuvi or Pathan ineffective? Why Kohli after that brilliant century in the previous game came so low down the order? Why did India struggle to score runs in the last 10 overs of our batting? Why was Sachin not in the field during the last few overs of the game? Well Trillions of such questions pop in our mind.

I dont have answers for all of these questions. However I can make a few reasoning and my readings of the game. Most of the teams play this WC with 4 specialist bowlers and the 5th bowler quota is filled by all rounders or part-timers. Like, Australia play with Tait, Lee, Krejza, and Johnson. SA plays with Steyn, Morkel, Botha, Tahir/Tsotsobe. England plays with Swann, Anderson, Bresnan, Yardy.

India too plays the game the same way. Zaheer, Bhajji, Munaf, Chawla. But the quality of the entire specialist is not in the same league as other nations. Except for Zaheer and Bhajji others are not proven match winners or experienced campaigners. Imagine if one or two of our bowlers have bad day (which is quiet possible... like how Sachin/Sehwag gets out duck) then the pressure is more on the other bowlers and the part-timers. Considering the quality of the opposition batsman the chances are that our bowlers would only fail.

However this is not something that is coming up to us as a shock. We all know this is the quality of our bowlers. But we were assuming our batsman can compensate for the bowlers weakness. But today a good opposition clearly exposed the weakness. We realize our batsman heroics are not sufficient to cover our bowlers failure. I don’t know how others read it. But to me this game is a blessing in disguise. We did not have to know this in Knockout stages. Now we have a good time to reassess ourselves.

What would be the solution?
One answer would be to play with 5 specialist bowlers as India has the depth in batting. Infact two games in a row India has posted a total of 335+ runs on the board. No team has reached this feat yet in this world cup. However both these games our bowlers conceded runs. May be play with Sreeshanth or Ashwin for Yousuf Pathan depending on conditions. Ashwin is good in opening the bowling. He could be effective like Suliemann Benn for WI.

The other way to look around this is, India was able to put this mammoth total on the board consistently because our batsman at the top of order was able to play with confidence that there is (Yousuf Pathan) more batting to come down the order. This confidence helped them to bat more freely. So we are able to post this big total. So if we remove one of the batsmen, then the batsman at the top (except Sehwag) will try to play more responsibly and in the end, India may not be posting those big totals.
India should also explore the option of chasing targets if we consider our batsman can exert more pressure than our bowlers.

Now we got 4 more games to go before knockout stages. This is the time to test all the theories. Especially against SA and WI. Play one of these games with 5 bowlers and see if our batsman could still come up with 300+ runs. If the batman are not able to post the total... may be rework the strategy. Play the other game with 4 bowlers while chasing the target. Try to open the bowling with Yousuf Pathan. These are some of the thoughts that pop in my mind. The experts know it better.

After all, this is the best time for India to test all the theories and get the balance right.

Bottom Line: Don’t read the result of the India Vs England game. Read the game to reassess the strength and weakness

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