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Tense & sensibility

cricket Updated: Feb 19, 2008 02:09 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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One good thing about this Indian team, or any team in international cricket for that matter, is that they don't live in the past if it doesn't evoke good memories. This is not to suggest that they prefer resting on their laurels. But certainly, when it comes to looking ahead after a setback, they are ever so prompt.

Monday was bright and hot. Those who could afford to stay indoors didn't venture out and after the match against Australia, practice was optional for India. Just five of them came to the Adelaide Oval in the evening after a team meeting under a sun that was still strong and they looked relaxed, doing some light training or playing tennis. There was a team dinner after that.

Professionals that they are, the Indians must swiftly change gears come Tuesday when they lock horns with Sri Lanka. Australia have 17 points, are looking good for a few more and it's a two-horse race now for the other berth in the finals. Mathematically, there may still be some margin for errors, but practically, it's time to get rid of them.

Patience still a virtue

India had started the series with a big concern that has grown bigger despite some encouraging signs in between. Needless to say it is batting and the application or the lack of it shown by the men in the team to look after this department. It starts at the top and like running through a funnel from the narrower end, keeps getting wider.

None can say there is an alarming lack of talent in India's batting. At the same time, none can say with conviction that on a given day, at least two or three of them will dig deep and make sure that the team bats solidly for the full 50 overs. It hasn't happened in the five matches so far and more than technical inadequacies, this has got a lot to do with poor shot selection. There have been exceptions, which are not enough.

A big total is of course the name of the game, but history will show that not all such totals were made with big shots all through the innings. There is need to occupy the crease, spend time there because it's impossible to dominate all the overs against the kind of opposition India are facing here. This means resorting to the tried and tested virtues of the game instead of relying solely on firing from the first ball and keep pulling the trigger.

Less tinkering preferable

With due respect to Irfan Pathan's allround skills, at a time when things are not clicking collectively, sticking to a fixed batting line-up seems to be the need of the hour. Pathan is a capable batsman but India have not won many games by sending him ahead of the established batsmen.

He said on Monday his job was to “bat normally and not go for big shots when the team isn't chasing a big total”. If that is the case, then by denying the other batsmen a chance to play more balls, the team is actually not paying too much respect to their abilities. For a team in transition, this is not a good sign because it doesn't send right signals.

What about Sehwag?

The captain said Virender Sehwag wasn't 100 per cent and that's why he opted for five bowlers on Sunday. There can be arguments for and against that ploy without a clear winner. The catch is that Sehwag insists he is fully fit. He has given India two decent starts in this tri-series so far and Adelaide Oval is a ground with small square boundaries where he scored 150-plus in his last Test innings.

Against a team with a few left-handers in the top-order, Sehwag's off-spin may not be completely dispensable apart from his ability to kick-start the innings with some lusty hits. Five bowlers isn't a terrible idea given that Pathan gives the team that additional batting option, but against Sri Lanka, Sehwag may be a costly omission.

Get the big three

One feature uniting the three teams in this competition is their batting frailties. There are big names in all but the scores have been small and given the way Sri Lanka have batted, India can be hopeful of making serious inroads if they get the better of Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene.