It has been a strong, albeit inconsistent batting display by the Indians so far in the ODI series. In the last two matches of the series, Tendulkar’s batting has helped India level the ODI series. The team now travels to Lords’ with an opportunity to win the ODI series. It now has the opportunity to take home all the five medals/cups that were on offer when the long tour of England, Ireland and Scotland started — an ODI series win against Ireland, an ODI series win against South Africa, an ODI win against Scotland, the nPower Test series win against England and the NatWest ODI series.
That opportunity looked quite distant at the end of the 4th ODI; the ODI at Old Trafford which India perhaps ought to have won, but lost thanks to the brilliance of Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara.
However, the team has bounced back, thanks to its batting stars.
At Headingly, in the 5th ODI of the series, Tendulkar (71 off 59), Yuvraj Singh (72 off 57), Sourav Ganguly (59 off 79), Gautam Gambhir (51 off 66) helped India to a strong batting performance. India ended the innings with a solid score of 324 with some power-hitting by Mahendra Dhoni and Rahul Dravid in the end. Inserting India in to bat on winning the toss was indeed a curious decision by Paul Collingwood in this match! Despite the rain that threatened intermittently, India won that match.
If the 5th ODI saw Tendulkar in majestic form, he bettered it in the 6th ODI at the Brit Oval. His form in last nights’ encounter was nothing short of magic. He found sublime touch with deft paddles and flicks. He found power and energy in his drives and pulls. This was a master-class which his detractors will have to remember, if only for a moment or two for, they will be back with calls for his retirement the moment he scores two low scores on the trot!
India commenced the game well after England won the toss and chose to bat. After 30.2 overs, England had limped to 137 for 5. Once again, Englands’ toss-decision appeared to have been wrong. However, thanks to some power hitting from Owais Shah, debutant Luke Wright and Dimitri Mascarenhas, England surged to a solid total of 316. Shah had scored his maiden ODI century and Luke Wright made an ODI 50 on debut. But the real knock-out blow came from Mascarenhas who thumped the last over of the match, bowled by Yuvraj Singh, for 30 runs — five towering sixes!
Coming on the back of this mauling, the riposte was terrific by the Indian openers — Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. The old firm for India in ODIs, provided the perfect platform for India. Although one felt that they could have pressed on to secure a larger platform, their work had been done. India stuttered in the journey home, but a strong innings from Robin Uthappa brought them home. Uthappa’s maturity under pressure was refreshing.
The presence of the young Robin Uthappa (YouthAppa), Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla, Rohit Sharma and others like them — like Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Mohammed Kaif, et al — helps in many ways. The teams’ fielding standards are lifted. After some excellent saves in the initial overs yesterday, when England were batting, even Romesh Powar was throwing himself around on the field! Uthappa brought a freshness to the fielding levels. Moreover, it was refreshing to see Uthappa play with unconstrained self-belief at the death.
India have to future-build around the likes of Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karhik, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and others like them. These youngsters need to be routinely rotated into the team as India prepares for an ODI future sans Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. Already, Tendulkar, who was cramping badly towards the end of his innings in yesterdays’ game, has hinted at retiring from the ODI scene at the end of this year!
Only one century on the tour:
Curiously, the last two-and-a-half months (since June 23rd) have seen only one century from an Indian bat in an international ODI/Test match! There have been several 90s and several big contributions, but only one century. And the scorer of that century was a bowler — Anil Kumble! And this is perhaps a good sign. The stats don’t matter. What matters is the team performance.
Team composition and balance:
Having said that, I really do not believe that India has its team composition and balance right. The 4-bowler composition just does not work, especially if Ajit Agarkar is to be depended on! The team was caught napping in yesterdays’ match in the death overs mainly because of this (im)balance, combined with Ajit Agrakar’s inconsistency. The two-spinner policy, combined with the 4-bowlers-only policy means that India have to depend on Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar to bowl consistently at the start and then again, at the death. This cannot be a viable long-term strategy.
The fallacy in this thinking was exposed when Agarkar was taken to the cleaners in the 46th over. Dravid reacted like a rabbit caught in the headlights and had no option but to throw the ball to Yuvraj Singh to complete proceedings. It was a sorry situation indeed. Yuvraj Singh was taken to the cleaners and back. The relief on his face was palpable and obvious as he ran down from the pavilion to hug Uthappa at the end of the game. He charged like a hare whose backside was on fire! Clearly there was pent up emotion there — caused by a combination of Ajit Agarkar’s brain explosion and the 4-bowler policy. In this regard, perhaps Rahul Dravid could have used Romesh Powar’s last over a bit earlier. Or perhaps even eked out an over or two from Tendulkar and/or Yuvraj Singh in the earlier stages itself…
But these are all tactical issues that are somewhat irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. India needs a utility player or two urgently — a medium fast bowler who can bat well too…
Is there an allrounder in the ranks in India — any allrounder? The time is ripe for this tribe to put their hands up and step up to the plate. Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Joginder Sharma and company ought to be queueing up!