While both the spinners’ performance has been the only gain for India from the first three NatWest games, they are facing a sort of No. 3 conundrum. Whether it comes to batting or bowling, No. 3 is proving worrisome.
Third man in
India have used three batsmen at No. 3 so far — Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Karthik. On the eve of the first ODI, Rahul Dravid had said that they would look to try and give Yuvraj more opportunities with the bat so that he can win matches on his own. That clearly indicated he would come up the order.
But Yuvraj’s batting at No. 3 in Bristol was dubbed a “spontaneous” decision by Dravid and now, Dravid’s sprung another surprise, saying Karthik would occupy that position for the near future.
“He would have gone in at No. 3 in Bristol also, but we decided to send Yuvraj after getting such a good start,” said Dravid on Monday.
“Dinesh has done well in this tour as an opener so we wanted to give him more chances. He got out today, but that is okay, part and parcel of the game and look at someone like (Ian) Bell. They have given him a lot of time. There in lies a lesson for everybody.”
Which is fine logic, but then, shouldn’t that have been the case straight off?
Pacer No 3
Zaheer Khan and RP Singh (despite that final over in Edgbaston) have been pretty consistent through the tour. Sreesanth gelled with the duo during the Tests, but his exclusion now seems to have skewed the equation.
The problem with the choice between Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel is a somewhat peculiar one: Agarkar so far, has definitely been very off colour as a bowler (definitely the worst on display) but is probably the most athletic of India’s sorry fielding bunch, so he’ll save vital runs. Munaf has moved between being accurate and penetrative and erratic and expensive, especially when it comes to fielding --- there, he is terrible.
“Munaf did not have a particularly good game, but it can happen,” said Dravid. He added, “It (the third paceman) is not a worry as we have got 5-6 strike bowlers and we have to keep faith in them to do well.”
But after conceding 37 off his first five overs, Munaf was never given the ball again by his skipper. That wasn’t a sign of faith. One just hopes he is absolutely fit.
Lucky for some
Meanwhile, Ian Bell, England’s No. 3 in this series, has proved their mainstay and match-winner. Dravid said as much. “He’s playing the spinners well in the middle overs, is coming out and being positive. He looks in good control of the game.”
The man of the moment, looking like the proverbial cat who had the cream, said he was happy to get runs at Edgbaston, home to Warwickshire county. “My highest score at the home ground playing for England was around 20, so it was nice to get a score in front of home supporters,” said Bell.
Now India need to find a way to bell the cat.