The third ODI between India and Australia brought with it the memories of the same old frail days when Sachin and Saurav under their captaincy struggled to conjure up the fifth bowler. They were blessed with a few better ones at that then – Kumble, Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and later an in-form Harbhajan Singh.
Yesterday I could get a glimpse about why Dhoni has to remain so pro-active on the field with his bowling changes. Let me admit it first by the way – he is one of the best captains to have led India ever, simply for perfectly utilizing his under-performing resources and yet ending up on the winning side. Many a times, it has been sheer luck that has favored him but like yesterday, when luck totally deserted him, so did his small little brain as was pointed out by Shashi Tharoor in his tweet right after India lost the match – “Questions for MSD: Why was Kohli given an over when regular bowlers had enough2spare? Why Ishant¬ Vinay for 48th over when VK had 2 left?”.
While it’s totally immaterial to tell you now, how I kept hopping in my home yelling the same thing over and over, it needs to be signified amongst all of this that how an under-performing Ashwiin becomes a liability in the Indian bowling line-up. He needs to be given a long break to get this one simple fact correct in his head – that he is an off-spinner first and then anything else. Looking good while batting will not make up for the fact that it was Dhoni’s lost confidence in him that he had to wait for half of the Australian innings to get wrapped up before the ball was thrown at him. I have no clue what keeps going inside his head as was pointed out by Gavaskar and Sivaramakrishnan during their commentary stint in one of Ashwin’s over. Six balls were bowled – and all of them were different. One of them was scathed for a boundary too. What’s worth pointing out is how his stock delivery, the off-break never goes for more than a run or two while all his stop-go motions let the crowd revel in the glory of impending sixes to come. He never got to complete his quota of his 10 overs because Dhoni knew he couldn’t be made to. Dhoni also inside his head knew that this target was never safe for he would have known what Faulkner could do with the bat. Ashwins (dis)array of deliveries almost lands Dhoni in soup with his field placements too. And while Dhoni would keep his CSK mate motivated right through his bowling, all that it seems to accomplish is give him freedom to throw bullshit at right handed batsman (that most of the Australian batsmen are) who are happy to cart him for sixes of mind-boggling deflating lengths.
Another problem that Dhoni is facing is under-utilization of Yuvraj. He can’t be made to look like a fool for Dhoni has himself conceded that the least pressure will be applied on Yuvraj as it’s his comeback series. Yet I don’t see any reason for Yuvraj why he can’t take the onus upon himself and not get out the same way in 2 matches out of three. Why do you have to jump in your crease while playing a ball that is short enough only to come to your chest in your normal stance. Isn’t that a ball worth leaving? Hasn’t Yuvraj been a good player of short deliveries? Since when did he start getting bogged down by the likes of Mitchell Johnsons and their short pitched barrage of bowling?
Another problem that Dhoni has called upon himself is giving Raina a stationary post at number 4. Why? Raina is only good enough to play old balls when they don’t jump to his chest else he loses his shape playing the short deliveries. It was a very good point raised by Gavaskar again yesterday that he should be playing short deliveries in front of his right shoulder and not the left one. That way he would have a better chance to dab a ball down to leg side than having to fend at them. My advice to him would be the same as Haydens – You have to decide in your career whether you want to play the short ball. If you decide not to, always leave them. It’s a simple enough decision. Only one bouncer is allowed in an over and you can play the other five balls to their merit.
Still keeping up with the issue of batting at number 4, I think it needs a more solid batsman than Yuvraj or Raina. They are both number 5 batsmen who can come in later in the innings and pavé way for Dhoni to cart the opposition bowling for sixes while staying with him all along. Both these batsmen have terrible weaknesses in their batting when they are new at the crease and these shortfalls will only make them look foolish on pace friendly Australian wickets. Mold someone like Pujara or Rahane for that place to take on more responsibility and play sensibly at number 4 to stabilize the ship when its sinking or make headway for hitters when the winds are sailing for you. They are not supposed to hit out.
While there will always be points to ponder for Dhoni about his batting, it’s his bowling department that needs a serious rethinking. Him and Joe Dawes have to sit down and see bowlers for the future. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has kept him in good stead in non-swinging conditions by not leaking runs on batting friendly tracks but Vinay Kumar totally gives away all that he does in his initial overs by bowling short on slow Indian pitches in the death overs. By doing that he simply sets up the ball to be hit anywhere in the park and any good enough batsman from even Bangladesh would do that – leave alone pace loving Australians who have bred on short pitched bowling. Ishant Sharma has to go. He’s simply not a capable enough bowler to spearhead any bowling attack in this world. Zaheer Khan should be brought back along with Umesh Yadav. A team can only play 1 swing bowler in a team which plays majority of its cricket in non-swinging conditions. Jaidev Unadkat should be given sparring games to never let him forget the taste of international cricket.
A lot has to be learnt from yesterdays defeat and Dhoni would be ill-advised to keep up his adamant stand at playing certain players in the team. Because they simply aren’t good enough to hold their places in the Indian team. Dhoni also has to understand that whatever went right for him yesterday may not persist in the future like Virats belligerent form and himself and Jadejas miserly bowling. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have to make sure that they keep providing starts on a regular basis, for this team doesn’t need another case of Sehwag – a bull who could never be controlled and who could never control himself.
Come On boys. This Australian team is easily beatable. Don’t let this series get away from hands at the price of unnecessary persistence with rubbish players.
P.S. – Sourav Ganguly – please stop calling SHIKHAR Dhawan as SHEKHAR Dhawan. You sound moron.