Harsha on the Indian options
Harsha once again makes some very very good points in this new column
. First that Dravid needs to bat in the middle since another experienced head is needed for finishing time there, which means need for a Dravid-like calming influence at the top - interestingly he suggests Laxman, not Ganguly, for number 2 spot. Either way, he's right, and I'm happy that he realizes that a dasher like Sehwag, if needed to play his natural role, doesn't need an Uthappa like partner.
His other point is that sending Pathan at 3 to accelerate in certain conditions was a defensive move since the team management didn't have anyone (or, in case of Yuv and Dhoni, didn't want to sacrifice them for cheap quick runs). Therefore, Raina playing there, in those very same conditions, is most welcome. Again, I agree that giving Raina an extended shot at number 3 is not a bad idea. Especially when we get Sachin back (or the opening sorted) - as that would mean Kaif is sitting out, and hence not having to play too low, which is a bit of a worry with him. But as of now, with the resources at hand in the current series, this may not work out.
He makes the most pertinent point on the five bowler theory, and the criticism its facing from some quarters
India’s five-bowler style of play was always going to put pressure on batsmen at some point. When you seek to win you sometimes have to walk together with the prospect of defeat. But it doesn’t make the theory bad in principle. At the heart of its success lie the all-rounders, Dhoni and Pathan. If they struggle, the approach is fraught with danger and would invite more cautious play from the top order.
I've made a similar point in my take on the recent loss...that the theory itself is good, based on the performance we were getting from the likes of Pathan, Dhoni, Powar etc. Ofcourse if they under-deliver then it doesn't work out...but that way, any strategy can go for a toss.
All this doesn't really help much in the current context, though. I still don't see Uthappa fitting in - although Yuvraj not recovering in time may still see him get a chance, mainly due to the lack of reserves in the ranks. Sending Raina at 3 is still risky, especially in a chase, as we know the limitations of batting Kaif too deep, and the relative unreliability of the lower order in current form.
In fact, Yuvraj missing from the equation affects the team in more ways than it can conclusively be said. For example, the Gayle catch that Sehwag dropped at covers was an excellent effort by him, but with Yuvraj in the squad and Raina or Kaif at that spot, it was much more likely to he held. As I said, these things are more of conjecture, but do add to the overall result, IMO.