India is in almost the same situation as it was in the 2007 edition of the ICC World T20 Championships. Back in 2007, having lost her fist Group-E Super8 game to New Zealand, India had to play England in game-2 and then South Africa in game-3 of the Super-8 stage. India are in much the same position now. It is an opportunity for India to re-write the history books or a chance for England and South Africa to exact some revenge!
Stuart Broad, in particular, will want to forget that night at Kingsmead, Durban on 19 September 2007! He got taken to the cleaners by an angry Yuvraj Singh who was made angrier after a sledge from Andrew Flintoff! The repeat of Stuart Broad Vs Yuvraj Singh should make compelling viewing.
There are cries of gloom and doom already in the Indian media. Obituaries are already being written and workers at effigy-making factories have booked in for over-time while their masters are already rubbing their hands in glee!
Someday someone will realise that this is only a game!
India, in my view, is not playing the right team. One can’t do anything about Virender Sehwag’s injury. Them’s the breaks and you can only play with the cards you are delivered.
I can understand the teams’ reluctance to play R. P. Singh ahead of Ishant Sharma because, if R. P. Singh were to play, the team would have Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Irfan Pathan as the pace bowlers. There would, as a result, be a sameness to the bowling. Understood.
However, this analysis is predicated on the presence of Irfan Pathan in the team! I can’t be certain that that is a foregone conclusion.
I’d much rather the team play Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Praveen Kumar instead!
The absence of Irfan Pathan would result in a weakening of the batting though. To make up for this, I’d like the team to play Ravindra Jadeja instead of Pragyan Ojha.
Moreover, I think M. S. Dhoni is wasted at #3. He is a clinical finisher and is a bit of a misfit at #3. I’d like to see Suresh Raina at his more familiar #3 position.
I believe India has defined a hitter/defender role for each player. Rohit Sharma appears to be the designated “hitter” while Gautam Gambhir is a “defender”. So, should Gautam Gamhir fall first, Dhoni walks in as a “defender” replacing another “defender” while, should Rohit Sharma fall, Raina would come in as a “hitter” for “hitter” replacement (as he did in the game against West Indies).
All of this sounds excellent on paper.
This represents another twist in Dhoni’s reading of the game and works well provided, of course, that it doesn’t become an obsession. Some six months back Dhoni was obsessed with the left-right batting combination strategy and ploughed on with it regardless of the situation or the opposition. Formula captaincy does not a Dhoni make though! His strength is his alertness and nimbleness and he should fall back on that rather than a formula.
Although, having said that, having a few set templates in a game as fast and furious as the T20 game is not necessarily a bad thing.
The problem with implementing this strategy blindly is that Dhoni’s form has not been that great lately. Given that, I think he should stick to the knitting and back himself as one of India’s strongest finishers in recent memory. He has this uncanny ability to hold one end up, rotate the strike and score at a run-a-ball without getting fazed. THat ought to be his role in the team.
So, I’d like India to go with the following team (in batting order) in todays’ game against England:
Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, R. P. Singh