England bat deep. So deep that Ravi Bopara is forced to come in at No. 8 and Stuart Broad, who averages around 37 runs and has 3 fifties to his credit in his short Test career, comes in at No. 9. Yet, they’ve had trouble overhauling the totals set by India in the first two matches.
A lot has been said about England’s team composition and the blame for the two defeats attributed to that. I disagree with this – Their batting on paper, as I’ve pointed out, is quite deep and in the bowling department, they have gone with four front line bowlers. Most teams go in with 4 full time bowlers and the other 10 overs are usually bowled by part timers. England have Anderson, Broad, Flintoff and Harmison as their front line bowlers and to add to that they have Collingwood (who is quite capable of bowling 10 overs by himself if he isn’t playing in the sub-continent), Samit Patel, Bopara and Pieterson to chip in to complete the remaining overs. The only serious debate is whether they should include a front-line spinner in the team and that would definitely be worth considering – Graeme Swann (and he can bat, too) is indeed tipped to start in the ODI at Kanpur.
The real problem, in my opinion, lies with the batting order in the team. In particular, the opening combination is just woeful. Matt Prior has had a very poor run – in his 27 outings as opener, he has crossed fifty just once – and his strike rate has been around the 75 mark. Bell has fared better than Prior – he has averaged around 34 and has 5 fifties, but his strike rate is only around 69. Both have had slow starts, chewing up precious power play overs and haven’t converted them into big scores.
(Compare this to Sehwag (who has a SR close to 100) and Gambhir (SR of 84+), who have been giving good starts to India)
There is nothing wrong with a traditional slow start if one (or both) openers go on to make a big score and leaving a launch pad for hitters like the Boparas, Flintoffs and Patels to come in later and do their stuff. But that isn’t happening either. Prior at the top of the order has failed and needs to be replaced with someone else. Maybe England can try something dramatic like sending in someone like Flintoff or Bopara to start the innings. Shah needs to go back to No. 5 or 6 – the position he has occupied in most of his ODI games.
Pieterson (their No. 1 batsman and captain) needs to come in at No. 3, followed by Collingwood, Bopara, Shah and Patel. Prior can be the new No. 8 batsman. My batting line up would look something like this –
India, on the other hand have no major selection dilemmas at the moment. Ishant Sharma, who is now fit, is likely to come into the team to replace RP Singh – apart from that they are expected to retain the same playing XI. However, if India wins the third one day as well, I would expect a few people to be rested and rotated – probably starting with the captain MS Dhoni.