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Willow Submarine

India’s batting looked under the weather yet again. They should look at bringing in Uthappa, writes Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Nov 05, 2007 22:49 IST
Amol Karhadkar

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Babe Ruth, baseball legend

As India go into the fifth one-dayer staring an embarrassingly quick series loss in the face, their fielding, alternately described as amusing or abysmal —- depending on whether you’re an English or an Indian fan —- has taken up most of the attention.

But let’s face it, their fielding, whether it is scraping the bottom of the barrel or not, cannot be wholly, or, even mostly blamed for the losses. It makes a difference yes. Often, that difference is crucial, yes, but basically, if India have to win, their star batsmen have got to gel as a unit.

India went into this series with a largely inexperienced bowling attack but yet, as Rahul Dravid has repeatedly said, their new-ball bowlers have bowled well up front and the spinners have done well in picking up wickets at vital times. They have also seemed worse than they have been because the 25 to 30 extra runs given away in the field are ultimately reflected in bowling analyses.

But the batsmen just haven’t clicked together, even if there have been a couple of great individual knocks coming off Indian bats. England’s bowlers have consistently bowled short-pitched stuff at the senior Indian bats, and apart from the Bristol game, no Indian top-order batsman has tried to unsettle the rhythm of any England bowlers.

What they’ve tried to do really is see off the new ball bowlers and bat through the first 20 overs. This effectively means that India are not able to make any real use of the powerplays and with no impetus generated in the early overs, the middle order fails to have that base to make a shift from first to fourth gear in the middle overs. So what you get is something like the 184 all out at the Rose Bowl or 212 all out at Old Trafford.

This is probably where an unpredictable element like Virender Sehwag would have come in handy. Sehwag isn’t there but Robin Uthappa, who could give an innings tremendous momentum with a quickfire 40 or 50 off 30-odd balls on his day, is around but has only been a passenger.

You would have to ask why Uthappa, also a very good fielder and fast between the wickets, is not in the XI. At this point of time, with everything to lose and everything to gain, India should logically be looking at making one of Dhoni and Karthik sit out.

Dhoni, who has played non-stop cricket and will lead India in the T20 World Cup after this, might benefit from a mini-break, as might Karthik, who might be better off for knowing he has to fight to keep his spot in the XI.

Both have looked out of sorts for the most in the shorter version and Karthik at No. 3, in any case, makes no sense. That position, on form, should either be with Yuvraj Singh, who has looked India’s most consistently fluent batsman right through, or the skipper himself, who has been sublime in patches.

If Uthappa comes in, either Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly should move down and consolidate the middle, which makes sense, given that neither has really looked like taking the attack to the England bowlers and giving India the kind of flyaway start that will make it impossible for England to come back into the game.

By all accounts though, the problem here may lie in whether Dravid would be able to convince either of his predecessors as skipper to move down the order.