Recently Indian cricket has seen several changes in the batting line up which according to me may not be fruitful in the present but can certainly turn out to be handy in the near future. When a line-up for a match is selected, it’s not only the 11 which is decided, but also the positioning of the batsman in the line-up which can turn out to be vital in deciding the fate of a match. Batting is all about enacting your roles in the batting line-up and helping your team overhaul the target set by the opposition team. And at times players need to switch roles for the sake of the team. Cricket is about chopping and changing and no doubt it helps to discover the best possible combination, but at times too much experimentation can disturb the balance of the side. A versatile batsman just helps the cause by bringing into the fore their batting prowess in different situations. But there are certain batsman who unfortunately hasn’t got the gift of playing multiple batting roles in a team. A Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Kumar Sangakkara have played their roles quite efficiently throughout their career span. But they were mostly top order batsman who grinded out tough bowling-spells, playing out new balls to give the middle order batsman a platform to launch from. Somehow when it comes to big-hitting and belting the balls on a regular basis, they didn’t quite make their mark and it’s certainly not their fault. Not all batsman are blessed with both defensive and aggressive style of play. Likes of A.B. de Villiers, Brendon McCullum are gifted with multiple batting traits.
All the above lines about batting traits fast forwards my mind to the current series between India and South Africa where India have been beaten 3-2 by the Proteas. Till now out of seven completed matches India have been made to bite the dust five times. When a “non-sub-continent” team gets the better of a “sub-continent” team and that too on traditional low-and-slow sub-continent wickets, and that too against a powerhouse like India, there is certainly something wrong big time.
Talking about India’s current ODI batting line-up, there is Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and M.S.Dhoni. In other words, they have the players, which they can be proud of and also boast about. They have all the ingredients of getting on top of the World. The problem lies elsewhere. For preparing a dish of the highest quality the list of ingredients is necessary, but what’s more necessary is the sequence and quantity the ingredients are being put in. In the same way India have the players but the combination and sequence of players coming in to bat after each other isn’t fitting in well for the team. Once the line-up gets set and the players are well versed with their roles, most of the problems will be eliminated.
I have tried to study the small nuances and intricacies of the team and tried to bring out some solutions. Given below are some suggestions the Indian team may follow for the betterment of the batting line up.
For the last few matches, there has been a constant effort of getting Ajinkya Rahane into the team and that’s completely aggregable because Rahane has been a class act over the years. As said by Dhoni in a press-conference, Rahane is someone who is best suited to play in the top three slots. That only means either disturbing the left-right combo of Dhawan and Rohit or tampering with the number three slot of Virat Kohli, the second one currently being the prevalent one in the current series. What India can do is send Kohli to the number four slot and allow Rahane to bat at number three for six to seven matches and wait for the results. Rahane has already justified his place in the two opportunities notching up two half-centuries. Sending Virat Kohli at number four according to me is logical enough coz Kohi has an average of 60+ at number four, which is actually more than his average in number three and he also has seven tons batting at number four. The top six in the line-up goes like this:
M.S. Dhoni/ Suresh Raina
Suresh Raina/ M.S. Dhoni
A left-hand right-hand combination is a set pattern followed by most teams, considering it as a useful method to neutralize the effects of the new-ball bowlers, making them adjust their line-and-lengths in every over. In the list of 10 most successful opening stands in ODI’s there are eight left-right combo pairs. It may show that only 20 percent of the Top 10 are same-handed pairs, but when you see that they are Adam Gilchrist-Matthew Hayden and Sachin Tendulkar-Virender Sehwag, two of the world’s most destructive opening pairs, you are bound to agree that numbers don’t always reveal the full story. Even the highest opening stand of 286 in ODI’s is shared by a same-handed pair in Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga, Hence it somewhat manifested the fact that it doesn’t always require a left-right combination to be successful as openers, sometimes pure batsman-ship can do the trick. What India can do is drop Dhawan, move up Rahane to the opening slot with Viral at number three. The question is who will fill in for Dhawan? India, at the present point of time is devoid of a batsman who plays a fearless brand of cricket like that of a Glenn Maxwell or a Brendon McCullum. In India there is Yusuf Pathan, Deepak Hooda. Hooda is the one who is a rookie in the world of cricket, someone who needs to be nurtured and groomed well while Yusuf is a veteran. My choice will be Yusuf Pathan simply because he has shown it at the big stage. The top six line-up goes like this:
Suresh Raina/ Yusuf Pathan
Yusuf Pathan/ Suresh Raina
In Point Number 1 I mentioned that India can drop Dhawan, open with Rohit and Rahane with Kohli at number three. In addition to that what India can do is give Raina a break and send in Yuvraj Singh in his place, just to see how it works. Yuvraj Singh just for the fact that he is in sublime touch in the current Ranji season. Talking about the age factor, If Harbhajan Singh can be re-called at the age of 34, then why can’t Yuvraj Singh be? Dhawan and Raina in this break can work on their form in the Ranji Trophy. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh with the inclusion of Dhawan and Raina respectively will also get a boost. The line-up goes like this:
These are just some points India can look upon to in order to build a well-settled team. Failures are not the end of the road, they are the pillars to success. India is a quality team and it’s just a matter of time before they roar their way back at the top of the rankings. India still have a test series coming up vs South Africa and being an optimistic fan I will keep believing that Indian team can certainly come back into form in the remainder of the series, no matter how big a problem Indian cricket currently is in.