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    April 20, 2005

    Time to revamp India's batting order in one-dayers?

    Last week, I wrote briefly about why I thought Dhoni was batting at the wrong position. As the series progressed, it struck me that the Indian batting order was quite imbalanced. Woolmer's views on Tendulkar and Sehwag trying to outscore each other made me wonder about an alternate batting order, possibly more balanced than the current one.

    Assuming Ganguly is playing, the order currently reads: Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dhoni, Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvraj & Kaif. Dhoni only came in at #3 in the second game, but since the team has continued with him there, I assume that he would bat at that position in the future as well. However, the top three are players with the ability to really belt the ball. Make that top four when Ganguly is in form. Kaif and Dravid cannot slog while Yuvraj can. So, if by some chance India entered the 44th over or so with Dravid and Kaif at the crease, it'd be a bonus if they scored at 8-9 an over.

    So I came up with two alternate batting orders. The first one reads Sehwag, Dhoni, Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kaif & Yuvraj while the second one is Sehwag, Ganguly, Kaif, Tendulkar, Dravid, Yuvraj & Dhoni.

    Essentially in the first scenario, Dhoni goes in to open while Tendulkar moves to #4 while Kaif and Yuvraj swap places. This order more or less guarantees an electric start, not that common nowadays with Tendulkar rarely providing the exhilaration he used to. I do not really see too much value in Tendulkar opening the innings. If he is not going to bat explosively, I'd rather have him bat in the middle order during the boring stages of the game where he can score lots of singles. Yuvraj and Kaif swap places simply because Kaif cannot score rapidly for nuts.

    Some hunting around indicates that since he made his debut, there've only been 3 occasions when he has scored more than 25 runs at a strike rate well over 100, the famous NatWest Series final, against West Indies in 2002 and against Kenya in the ICC Champions Trophy last year. I'm going to exclude that last knock. So it has been nearly two and a half years since Kaif contributed any sort of a decent slog. Add in his inconsistency and obviously he is either batting at the wrong position or in the wrong team.

    In the second option, Ganguly would open along with Sehwag. Ganguly's ability as a one-day opener is beyond debate. As far as I remember, he and Sehwag were doing a pretty decent job, especially during 2002. But Tendulkar "preferred" opening and that is what ended up happening. Ganguly has never really been secretive of his preference to open in one-dayers. Perhaps that is the break he needs to get his form back. Kaif would bat at #3 because his batting style is more suited to bat in the top order. If he hangs around till the 35th over or so, he would have squeezed in a lot of singles and twos, which would really impact the total. He has been successful batting higher up in the order, especially during the 2003 World Cup, in crucial situations against Pakistan and New Zealand.

    The rest of the order pretty much falls into place, with Yuvraj and Dhoni responsible for the slog overs. It is perhaps an indicator of the kind of form Dravid and Sehwag are in that they're the only two who haven't been moved around from their normal batting slots.

    In fact, I'd suggest that every 4-5 games, Yuvraj and Kaif must be made to bat at #3, #4 and #5 because these are obviously the key batting positions in the middle order. If these two, along with Sehwag, are to form the core of India's batting once Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman quit, they must have the experience of batting in all sorts of situations. After all, it is but natural that they will occupy those batting slots 2-3 years from now.

    Oh, and when it comes to the bowling, I think its time Kumble and Nehra were excluded from one-day sides. I've already written about Kumble earlier. We must never play Nehra in one-dayers. He may take wickets, but 4/73 in 10 overs looks really bad in comparison to 1/46 in 10. Despite his direct hits at Ahmedabad, he is a poor fielder. Agarkar is a much better alternative for one-dayers. He can bat and field better while his bowling is at worst as profligate as Nehra's.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 6:43 PM |
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    5 sledge(s):

    Move Tendulakr from his opening slot and he will start whining like a 16 year old~

    By Blogger Aj (21-Apr-2005, 12:27:00 AM)  

    So AJ, whats your point ? Is it that Sachin is not good enough to open for India (or any other team) ? Or should he be removed from the team ? Or something else ? Forget what he says or how he behaves, whats your take ? And are you ready to eat you words if such a time comes ? :-)

    By Blogger worma (21-Apr-2005, 12:49:00 AM)  

    Wow! I am not questioning his ability, I am only talking abt his attitude.

    And talking abt his ability, the way he is playing these days ( barring the one innings against Pak ), middle order is the best place for him!

    By Blogger Aj (21-Apr-2005, 3:43:00 AM)  

    I don't think Dhoni ought to be batting up in the top 3. Not always, at least. He'll probably do well on hard wickets (Aus, SA etc). He'll find it harder on slow/low pitches, at least until he figures his game out some more.
    If Ganguly isn't picked any more:
    -great opportunity to blood a youngster who can play at #3. Maybe Raina, maybe Venugopal Rao. Kaif ought to play up, at 4 perhaps, and let Dravid/Yuvraj/Dhoni bring up 5,6,7.
    - if Ganguly continues to play(and I think he should), I agree that Sachin should drop down to play a role like Inzamam does from number 4, with Kaif and Dravid on either side of him. The onus will then largely be on Tendulkar to get the boundaries in the middle overs regularly.

    By Blogger avinash (21-Apr-2005, 6:44:00 AM)  

    AJ, Avinash, Sachin has been tried at number 4. That was one of the long term moves (remeber WI, Eng tour). Although he did make runs there, it clearly showed that he was struggling to sort out his game. Then he returned to number 1, Ganguly moved down. And he continued building till World Cup happened !

    And even if we are talking about moving him down, there is Ganguly to open. In fact even Sehwag can move down. It should be realised that atleast in ODIs, the opener has an advantage of making big runs (decent to good opener). So atleast we shouldnt compare opener to other members on run-to-run basis.

    There is not much drastic changes needed, in my opinion. As some others also suggested, its a matter of flexiblity to some extent. Like Sachin being moved down for a series, or Sehwag (based on conditions, present form, as well as venue, oppposition etc.) Opening in ODI is not that specialist a position. I am sure Ganguly, Mongia would also do well there.

    Then, as some else said, be more flexible in batting order (this was showing even before Pak series). Kaif was in excellent form before this series, yet only few chances at the top (I have seen atleast two good-form periods of that guy going waste because of lower order!)Realisation and adaptation to current form is also very important. And Ganguly seems to have a some idea of this.

    I dont feel there is much wrong with the contents of our ODI team, just more flexible approach in team batting position selection and a good new coach helping team think of new goals, thats all we need. Currently the ODI teams seems to have stalled in the development cycle. Actually the test team growth also seems to have slowed down, but at a much higher point (and also oppositions are not that fast in catching up, except maybe Eng). I would love to see Ind play Eng sometime soon !

    By Blogger worma (21-Apr-2005, 5:59:00 PM)  

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