I must declare that I am not a great fan of the current balance that Team India has got in its ODI Team. Having said that, I do believe that the ODI teams’ balance has improved substantially over the last 8 months or so, thanks to the return of Irfan Pathan.
I do believe that the return to form of Irfan Pathan is a definite positive for Indian cricket. After struggling with his rhythm for nearly a year, the young Irfan Pathan looks good today. He is running hard and bowling consistently in the mid-130kmph range. He also uses the slower ball and cutters quite effectively in ODI games. Throw in his competent batting and what you have is an effective package. Add to the mix the fearlessness of his captain M. S. Dhoni to use him in various different roles and you have the makings of an effective team-balance.
However, I do believe that India needs another Irfan Pathan to achieve that elusive balance.
If nothing more, this other allrounder could play when Irfan Pathan is either rested or injured.
With Andrew Symonds and James Hopes in its ranks, Australia has that balance. In Sundays’ game against India, Hopes had a tight hamstring and sat out the match. The result was there for everyone to see. The Indians knew the 5th bowler weakness in the Australian team and so, waited for Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds to be wheeled in! The presence of James Hopes would perhaps have altered their approach a bit.
Similarly, in a tight game, I do believe India will get “found out” through the absence of that 5th bowler. At the moment, the team is making-do with a combination of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh as that 5th bowler. Over time I do believe that the team needs to invest in another “allrounder” to achieve that elusive team-balance.
In Praveen Kumar, India has one such candidate warming the benches in Australia at the moment! I do believe that he ought to get a game against Sri Lanka today.
Over time, it will be, I believe, players like these that will make up the core of a ODI team.