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Subs need to fire

When India arrived in South Africa it was the bowling that was the concern, with Ishant Sharma blowing more cold than hot in the absence of spearhead Zaheer Khan. But now, a closer look at who is available makes you wonder about the batting as well, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: Sep 25, 2009 01:10 IST
Anand Vasu

If you brought it up after the event it would seem like an excuse. To say it before seems like being excessively defensive. But there’s no getting away from the fact that India’s campaign has suffered some serious setbacks in terms of the personnel available to pick the most balanced eleven.

When India arrived in South Africa it was the bowling that was the concern, with Ishant Sharma blowing more cold than hot in the absence of spearhead Zaheer Khan. But now, a closer look at who is available makes you wonder about the batting as well. Consider a full-strength side: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and the luxury of being backed up by either Suresh Raina or Yusuf Pathan.

In the light of Yuvraj’s untimely finger fracture, the situation is completely different. If Tendulkar and Gambhir open, and are followed by Dravid and Dhoni, the rest that follow are all players who are trying to establish themselves in the side or have recently struggled to score consistently. This is not to say that these batsmen cannot do the job, the four mentioned are all more than capable of batting the opposition out of the game on any given day. But what it will do is increase the pressure on these men to score in every game, and that’s not an ideal scenario. What you certainly don’t want is your four best batsmen occupying slots one to four if those that follow are either short on confidence or experience.

Whichever way you look at it, India are one specialist batsman short, with none of Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf or Abhishek Nayar really being able to fill the role.

Virat Kohli, who has been called up as a replacement for the third time in his career, will arrive in South Africa with a job to do, and the sooner he makes it the better.

That said, India have to take a serious look at their overall selection strategy, keeping in mind the busy season ahead. In this case, there were few options for specialist middle-order batsmen and that is worrying. Rohit Sharma was injured in the season opening Buchi Babu tournament, Robin Uthappa has done little apart from one brilliant ton in the final of the Corporate Trophy and S Badrinath, the other obvious candidate, does not seem to find favour. What’s especially worrisome is the fact that this paucity of middle-order options is after recalling Dravid, who wasn’t even in the one-day frame of things for two years.

In this case, the selectors had little option but to turn to Kohli. In the slightly longer term, though, they had better address the issue before it gets out of hand, either through injury to another top-line batsman or a dip in form.