India’s woes: Team composition…


Many pundits have been writing off India’s bowling as awful, citing her bowling against Bagladesh and England as case studies that prove their collective hypothesis.

However, Sanjay Subrahmanyan tweeted the fallacy of this position this morning. He tweets on his timeline (@sanjaysub): “Indian bowling not upto the mark for allowing Eng to score 338. Eng bowling upto the mark becos it was the Ind batting that scored 338!”

And that is really the point. If we accept the hypothesis that the India bowling is terrible, then surely, the England bowling ought to be equally bad!

That said, it is fair to accept a position that IF India lose this World Cup it will probably be more due to the collective failure of her bowling than her batting! The batting does look solid on paper. The problem for all other teams is that the batting looks more solid on the park than it actually is on paper! For the batting to be stronger on the park, India needs (a) Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni to be hitting the ball well. (b) Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli to fire. (c) Yusuf Pathan and Yuvraj Singh to start middling the ball. All three of the above are happening. I have rarely seen Sachin Tendulkar as much in the “zone” as he was when he batted against England. Virender Sehwag looks dangerous. MS Dhoni is on top of his game. Yuvraj Singh is starting to middle the ball well. All other batting chinks are being ironed out.

There is no point pillorying and bemoaning the fielding. India is not going to ship up her fielding mid-way through a World Cup. As Dhoni mentioned in a recent interview: It is what it is.

To me, even though I completely accept Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s position, as expressed in his [@sanjaysub] tweet, and although I lament the one-sided nature of the “India bowling is weak” theory, I do feel that there is something to be said for “team composition”.

I think it is suicidal for Team India to go in with Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla as the only “main bowlers” as we get into the sharp end of the tournament. Given that the batsmen are performing well, I think the team has to either sacrifice Yusuf Pathan or get him to open the bowling! If he does not do that, I see no reason why India should not play three spinners — R. Ashwin, Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh — with Yusuf Pathan missing out and with R. Ashwin opening the bowling!

With the “2 pace bowler, 2 spinner and 2 part-timer” formula that is currently under operation, Dhoni has no choice but to have a “bowling change by formula/template” form of decision making. He bowls Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan for the first 10 overs. He then has Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla bowl the next 10 overs. He then has the part-timers bowling in tandem for the next 10 overs. And from there, it is a look up to the heavens to see what happens! If decisions are made only by a template, we may as well have a template as captain!

Dhoni has no choice but to go for a template-solution given his resources. If we are to free his hand up a bit, I feel India has to bite the bullet and throw in another bowler into the mix. I feel that that bowler has to be R. Ashwin and he has to open the bowling.

— Mohan

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8 responses to “India’s woes: Team composition…

  1. I dont see a fallacy in saying Indian bowling bad.It just means we care more how India plays than England. English bowling was proved not great when Netherlands hit them close to 300.
    And in all fairness they got all wickets and we got only 8 just about the time when the match had almost slipped away.. And Stuart Broad didn’t play the match which could have made a difference!

  2. Mohan Krishnamoorthy

    @harinee: I think you missed the point.

  3. Srikanth Mangalam

    I have to disagree with Sanjay’s and Mahesh’s views in that the Indian batting lineup is way superior than any other team’s in this world cup. The Indians are capable are scoring way over 300 against every attack. However, the same cannot be said about other batting lineups. The Indians have to accept that their weaknesses are in the bowling/fielding departments and live with it, and hope to bat the rest of the teams out of the world cup. In that regard, Indians could afford to play three main bowlers and include Suresh Raina in the lineup, and it wouldn’t make a darn difference when it comes bowling.

  4. Maybe I did! I would actually want a bold move by Dhoni, dropping Harbhajan for Ashwin in just one match and see how it works !

  5. Mohan Krishnamoorthy

    @Srikanth: Who would you drop to accommodate Suresh Raina? Piyush Chawla? Also, let us accept your argument the Indian batting is the best. If that is the case, is there even a 1% chance that Suresh Raina — in your new squad, for Piyush Chawla — will ever play even 1 ball? So what’s the point? If the batting is so darned good, pick a genuine bowler, not another bat!

    @harinee: a like-for-like swap would not deserve the ‘boldness’ tag in my books. For Dhoni to be bold he’d have to drop a batsman (already strong) to play an additional bowler (currently weak).

    I’d play the next match with: Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Harbhajan, Ashwin, Zaheer, Chawla, Munaf (and open the bowling with Ashwin)

  6. Srikanth Mangalam

    I don’t believe the team has another genuine bowler. Ashwin is still untested. Nehra continues to remind me of, “mera baba margaya” and Sreesanth is, well, Sreesanth. If Suresh Raina doesn’t get to bat, he will get to bowl. Atleast, we will have one better fielder in the side. By adding another bowler, the bowling department doesn’t somehow become stronger. In my view, India has gone into the world cup with three bowlers; Zaheer, Harbhajan, and Munaf. Everyone else can also bowl!!! The Indians might as well split the remaining 20 overs amongst Sehwag, Kohli, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Yusuf, Suresh Raina.

  7. Agree with Mohan. Ashwin has got talent and can do a better job than Raina or Pathan (With the ball). If India has to sort out their bowling worries before the quarterfinals, it is the right time to try Ashwin.
    I have an another thought: what if they make Sehwag sit out the match against Ireland (as he is having a rib injury) and accomodate Ashwin. One match is not going to affect Sehwag’s form anyways. Gambhir & Sach can open the innings.

  8. I think that the balance of the team is dangerously wrong. The real reason being that there’s no point having 7 batsmen in the team, when *all* your batsmen are in glorious form. What you instead want to do is to have more multi-dimensional players in the team, and shore up your bowling on the off-chance that someone might not fire. Actually, me thinks that Sree actually did bowl well in the initial overs against Bangladesh, and should’ve gotten a couple of wickets. He was plain unlucky. So, my starting XI would be:

    1. Sachin
    2. Sehwag
    3. Kohli
    4. Dhoni
    5. Yuvraj/Raina
    6. Raina/Yuvraj
    7. Ashwin/Harbhajan
    8. Harbhajan/Ashwin
    9. Zaheer
    10. Sreesanth
    11. Munaf
    12. Gambhir
    13. Piyush
    14. Nehra

    So, you have the top 3 who are classical batsmen who take their time to get in, but once set go on to a really big score. Both Kohli & Dhoni are incredible in the middle innings, where their dot ball percentage is very low. Yuvraj is the insurance against a top order collapse, and Raina to come in quickly and power the innings along if the top 4 have done their job well.

    This line up gives you 3 fast bowlers + 2 spinners + 2 good part-time options + Sehwag/Kohli who probably should be given a bowl to keep them match ready.

    I think on most days this team would be hard to beat. This also allows the luxury of having the bad fielders be sent off the field to get Gambhir & Piyush who’re better fielders than say Sehwag or Tendulkar.

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