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Will England be India's bunny?

India will be battling their favourite bunny as they attempt to rediscover winning touch, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2006 22:03 IST

It promises to be an interesting battle at Jaipur. Poms versus Dravidian army will be the perfect opportunity for the Indian team to rediscover their lost form.

Incidentally, the March-April ODI series against their ex-colonial masters was the last convincing performance by the Indian team. The 5-1 mauling of England should renew hope for another great performance from the home side.

However, to succeed, it may be critical for India to bat first considering their inability to chase in the last few matches.

If we take India's average per wicket in the Malaysian tri-series, they were a complete disappointment in chasing targets while averaged almost double when batting first.

Avg per wicket scores in Malaysian tri-series
(West Indies always batted second and Australia first) 

Batting firstBatting second
Australia30.43--
West Indies--22.41
India31.4015.33

So while India may have made a world record of 18 consecutive wins in chases, on current form batting first may be a better option while hoping that dew does not play the spoilsport.

Besides, Tendulkar's great show in Malaysia and the Challenger series should also renew India's hopes, if they chose to make the first use of the pitch.

Harbhajan will be the key

The turbunator should be the key player in this battle. Any why not.  After some uneasy relationship with Greg Chappell which had adversely affected his performance, Harbhajan had come into his own only against England.

After all, it were his heroics against Flintoff's men which had spelled his revival. In fact, if we take the leading Indian bowlers in that series, Harbhajan's average as well as economy was just breathtaking

Leading Indian bowlers in England series

BowlerMatchesWicketsAverageEconomy
Harbhajan51215.583.74
Pathan51115.634.31
Sreesanth41016.306.07
Powar5728.854.23
Yuvraj6630.004.28

In fact,  just before the England series, Harbhajan's fifteen matches had fetched him only 13 wickets compared to a staggering 12 in five against England.

He was economical no doubt, but unable to give breakthroughs. At one time, a  strike-rate in excess of 120 was just not Harbhajan. Skill was always there but will seemed to have deserted him before England came calling.

Harbhajan in 15 matches before England Series

MatchesWicketsAverageWicketsEconomy
1-5536.4060.003.64
6-10626.1745.664.44
11-15299.00124.504.77

 


Now, Harbhajan will be hoping for this resurrection to continue. And why not?

Raina Dilemma

It should be a real tight call between Raina and Mongia for the sixth batting slot.  While decent left-arm bowling and a splendid final show in Malaysia should help Mongia, a great showing against England earlier this year which virtually ended Sourav's chance of ODI recall should help Raina.

In terms of sheer volume of runs scored, Raina had outshone all Indian batsmen, scoring as many as three fifties in the process.

Top-5 Indian batsmen against England
(Home series, 2006) 

BatsmanMatchesRunsAverage50s/100s
Raina624248.403/0
Yuvraj623747.401/1
Dravid521943.792/0
Dhoni517759.001/0
Pathan512341.000/0

 


So,  may be, the UP player does deserve a chance. After all, History has an uncanny knack of repeating itself.

It will also be important for some other out of form Indian players to watch videos of those matches - if nothing but to get back the feeling that they are proven  great run-getters. 

Yuvraj, Dravid, Dhoni and Pathan  -- these pillars of Indian batting have not been in great form of late. But if Flintoff indeed chooses not to bowl, there is no reason to believe that against a relatively modest attack, these class players can't be back among runs on friendly and benign Indian pitches.