Friday, May 29, 2009

Getting it right

Stephen Fleming made the point during an innings break, in the recently concluded IPL2. When teams have only one way to play, they become dangerous. Chennai had set Mohali a target of about 10 RPO in 18 overs and Mohali came within a whisker of winning. A few days later, KKR took a similar approach and surmounted 190 in 19 overs. A decade back Saurav Ganguly led India to a famous chase in Dhaka for a cup-final win over Pakistan (the first after several years). More recently South Africa surpassed 434 against the Aussies. The sheer magnitude of the task fires up the chasing team and if they get off to a flier, fielders become jellies and hope that the next steepler does not come their way.

As for teams, so for individuals. I have earlier written about Yusuf Pathan being a 'game-breaker'. The trick lies in giving him an environment to express himself and finding a role, wherein if he comes off, you win in a hurry and if he doesn't - well, there is a 'real' batsman to handle it from there on. 20-20, we can see is not all crash bang and wallop. There are ebbs and flows here too, though the duration is much shorter. With Pathan in the mix, with the right role to play, the battle-weary Indians be a bigger force to reckon with.

Dhoni would almost always be tempted to leave Yusuf as the last 'specialist' if he makes it to the playing 11, just above the bowlers/allrounder. It would make better sense to sandwich him among the batsman, perhaps at no 5 between Yuvraj and Rohit, moving him upto 4 in case of a strong start.

That way, Yusuf will almost certainly walk into the middle overs with the spinners/ trundlers in operation. He can play in the mode Fleming mentioned. In case the top order is blown away Rohit can be sent up or even Dhoni can come up and nurdle away as he is prone to doing over the last one and a half year, and hold back Yuvraj and Yusuf a little bit. In almost all other cases, though, Yusuf can be allowed thrill us with his abilities. The think tank must resist the temptation to open with him or send him at 3, which I believe are a slot too high for him even in T20. 

Talking about opening, we have two big guns, badly misfiring and threatening to blow holes in their own camp (enough battle imagery). Problem is there's no backup for them or for the Skipper/Keeper. Funnily enough Dhoni had Parthiv in CSK to keep wickets, open, run around in the outfield, drive the team bus, double up as masseur, do the souvenir shopping etc but no standby for the 'title defence'. 

How about the boffins at BCCI showing some foresight, spending a few pennies and keeping Dinesh Karthik on standby. (Not banking on them to) The obvious counter argument is that DK shone as a late middle order finisher and he may fail as opener. I submit the following reasons.

Outside the current squad (and the 'seniors') let's do a top of the mind recall based on proven ability and promise. T Suman, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Abhishek Nayar, S Badrinath, Virat Kohli come to mind. Filter them through the following four criteria. 

  1. Experience of a world cup
  2. Reasonably good form and showing in the IPL
  3. Big match temperament/ spunk
  4. Reasonable technique/ opener mindset


DK and Pandey come through. Kohli comes close for his 50 in an ODI in SL. 

DK makes the grade for keeping and his versatility in batting. He opened in England with distinction, yes yes in Tests, I can hear the howls of protest. Point being, he is an adaptable cricketer, feeds on confidence and responsibility and undoubtedly has the nous for the job. 

Let's wait and watch...



  1. Nail on head- as always. The correct use of Yousaf could be the difference in a close game. Ensuring that he's allowed to play his natural game is key.

    +1 on DK. He's definitely a very versatile and adaptable player. Somehow, whenever I saw him walk out to bat for the DDDs (the names sound so immature and wrong ) , I just immediately felt he'd make a 25+ score every single time. There was either a huge amount of confidence in him or something - he just looked like he was on a mission. He's a very clever and busy little player - a little in the mold of Azhar when it comes to starting an innings - slightly hesitant, but you blink a bit and you find that he's made 22 of 25 balls or something. And he then goes on to improvise and accelerate.

    Somehow I'm not a big fan of Kohli, and somehow I feel some of the players in the team and board are! He's got some good timing - especially on the legside - and he's almost seems cocky to the point of being extremely overconfident - but I guess it bodes well for him.

    Pandey is someone I was very impressed with. I paid more attention to his 40+ score in the semi-finals and came away a little pleased. Some of the timed cover drives in the offside were a little laxman-isque in nature - touch and timing, a rarity in T20.

    That part about parthiv... PRICELESS!!

  2. Muchas Gracias Fark. I have only elaborated on your query and my response in Armball's page on the subject of reserve openers and got off my chest what I had to say about Yousuf.

    Kohli - personally, I think he is a little prick - but like Bhajji, he has got thuggish body language and creates an impression that he is doing more than he actually is. But yes, he is a talent that people notice, only too readily.

    There IS a touch of VVS in Pandey's game. The way he dismantled Gony with square drives was oozing class and deflated CSK.

    Parthiv - :) I liked this dude, who scored a Test 50+ in Sydney and hooked Brett Lee while doing it. Nowadays , sadly for him, he has not worked on his keeping and doesnt put a price on his wicket (hence the walking wicket)

  3. Parthiv is quite a fellow! He's got pretty decent technique and nimble footwork WHILE batting (somehow it doesn't translate to keeping!). He seems to get the 20s once a while but never manages to get the bigger score which is required. Neither did his keeping improve. To Dhoni's credit, he did work on his keeping which makes him and Karthik stand out in that aspect.

    Funny story, I saw Parthiv at a "pub" in chennai along with a couple of other folks , he still looked too young to be there!

  4. I dont agree to have PP or DK in the team now. TIme to look beyond this 2 duds.

  5. Fark - yes PP has regressed since 2003, 20 runs/balls is his limit these days. Dhoni was never a natural keeper, but is a smart cookie and quick learner. He has come a long way since 2005.

    Welcome Sam.

    This is no case for PP.DK - I am not sure if he is a dud. 4 poor innings against Murali and Mendis (against whom the fab 4 themselves were found wanting) should not come in way of judging his utility for Indian cricket.

    Also, the case is for a standby opener/keeper, should there be a need for THIS T20 world cup.
    If IPL were to be taken as a form guide, Naman Ojha, Pinal Shah and Yogesh Takawale were the only keepers on view and I am not sure if any of them is better than DK.