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Part-timers, third pacer, and a whitewash

The Bangladesh series win has been a much needed tonic, but making it 3-0 will need India to factor in few issues, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: May 13, 2007 14:49 IST

Even if some of the former cricketers may lament that the Bangladesh series is being over-hyped, a victory in the ODI series, even against Bangladesh, was most essential after the World Cup debacle.

A loss would have had unimaginable, catastrophic consequences – both cricketing and non-cricketing. It would have considerably reduced the players’ powers to negotiate with the board. Worse, the first ever series defeat to Bangladesh would have temporarily stopped the infusion of fresh blood, considering such huge embarrassment without Sachin, Ganguly and Harbhajan.

While the victory, as much against the elements as an inspired outfit, is welcome, the best thing about it is that it has come without much contribution in batting from seasoned pros like Sehwag and Yuvraj. It has come thanks to the blades of the warriors worried about their place in side. They include Karthik, Gambhir, and even Dhoni. After all, is not Karthik becoming a real threat to Dhoni’s place in tests!

Part-Time Magic

One good thing about the first two matches is that the part-timers are continuing to be effective for India.

Take away one over of Dinesh Mongia when Bangladesh were totally out of equation, with them requiring 80 runs off three overs, and Mortaza just ripped him apart with a flurry of sixes (which can happen to any part-time bowler). The rest of Mongia’s seven overs in second ODIs accounted for just 31 runs, at an economy rate of 4.4. Part-timers are anyway not trusted with the final overs unless victory or defeat is assured. May be that is why he and Yuvraj were required to bowl the final four overs, which pacers should have been bowling!

In fact, Yuvraj was even better on Saturday. While he did give away 40 runs, the left-armer did chip in with two wickets, which erased whatever dreams Bangladesh may have harboured of victory. The wicket of Mushfiqur Rahim, who was going strong at 35, in Yuvraj’s very first over ended an important 59 run partnership for the sixth wicket.

Importance of at least three Pacemen

Despite India operating with two pacers and succeeding, important of a three-man pace attack can never be overstressed. No country in the World operates with just two pacers, unless you are taking the opposition lightly!

India will need at least three to make it 3-0 in the final encounter. You can’t keep on winning ODI matches with spinners alone. Having reached 250 once and almost reaching that figure again, Bangladesh’s batting certainly can’t be taken lightly.

If we operate with just two pacers and their top order manages to survive, they will find it easy to score runs in the final overs. And we have still not taken the injury factor into account!

Either we require five bowlers, if both Piyush or Powar are to find their way in the final eleven, or we may have to chose between one of these. In any case, RP does deserve a chance. He can be little expensive at times, but does tend to strike at critical junctures

Gambhir – Needs to convert 20s in big fifties.

Gautam Gambhir’s century has led to lots of celebrations. He does deserve most of the accolades, but the more important part from now on will be to convert the starts into big fifties and hundreds

If we see Gambhir’s twentyone innings, seven times he has got out between 20 and 40 and ten times for less than 20. Now the important figure is seven, not ten. He can’t control the failures but when he does get the start, he must take pains to convert it like he did on Saturday. India expect him to perform every second innings, not every fifth which he has been doing till now.

Pacing the innings

Pacing the inning after 40 overs is extremely important. In the last nine overs, despite six wickets in our kitty, we could manage to add just 63 runs at seven runs per over. It is difficult to believe that sides like Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka would not have reached 300 from 221 for four in the 40 overs even in a 49 over match!

But for the 14 runs in the final over thanks to some no balls and wides. We were going at just run a ball in the previous eight overs when it should have been at least eight-nine runs per over. That should be an area of concern.

Meanwhile, one of the big positives to emerge out of the current encounter has been the temperament shown by young Piyush Chawla. If he sparkles the way he has done in the second ODI, comparisons with Kumble will be inevitable in days to come. It will certainly put as much pressure on him, as on someone who is trying to get into Warne’s shoes. But then is not cricket all about handling pressure and expectations!