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HindustanTimes Tue,22 Jul 2014

Cricket Columns

Lessons of Dutch treat for India
Atul Sondhi
March 08, 2007
First Published: 19:36 IST(8/3/2007)
Last Updated: 19:51 IST(8/3/2007)

Greg Chappell must be a happy man today. All his missions, barring one, were accomplished from the first warm up game against Holland.

It was a tricky outing against the minnows. Remember India's first 2003 World Cup Match at Paarl four years ago against the same opposition. Did not then India appear a lost side after their top five were dismissed for just 114 runs,  before eking out a 68-run win.

However, this time India did not falter after three initial blows, and accomplished most of their missions in their thumping 182-run win.

Tendulkar shines in middle

Playing Sachin Tendulkar in the middle is always a controversial choice. More so in a  World Cup.

In this biggest cricketing stage, in his 22 innings as opener, Tendulkar has accumulated 1285 runs at an average of 61.2, while in the middle order, he averages less -- 55.8 from 10 innings.

 

Tendulkar in World Cups

Position

Innings

No

Runs

Avg

100s/50s

Opener

22

1

1285

61.2

3/9

Middle

10

2

447

55.8

1/3

 

After his display against the minnows on Tuesday, it is now clear that Tendulkar is all set to fulfill the role that he has been assigned -- to stabilise Indian innings along with skipper Dravid in case of initial hiccups.

More importantly, Tendulkar scored his runs at more than run-a-ball and showcased his ability to find the gaps at will. His 61 were the cornerstone of India's 300-runs, which looked little unlikely after three early wickets.

Impressive pacemen

Considering his show of late, it was a gamble to trust Irfan with the new ball, but he did pay back in style. Just 12 runs from his six overs were the kind of start India needed from Baroda speedster.

This was an important achievement, notwithstanding the opposition, because after the West Indies tour, in his 9 innings only twice has Irfan been able to achieve an economy of under six!  And his overall economy for these nine innings is above six.

Irfan's performance in ODIs after WI tour

Overs

54

Runs

329

Runs per over

6.09

Wickets

7

Wickets per over

0.77

Munaf was little expensive. In fact, he was the costliest bowler, going at the rate of 3.75 runs per over.  But then he never got the advantage of bowling the first overs.

The collective economy of 3.1 of the pace attack (66 runs from their 21 overs) was most impressive. This is the kind of performance India will hope for in their next warm up match against one of their most serious challengers, the West Indies.

Spinners' display

Equally heartening should be the performance of the spinners. Four years ago at Paarl, they had shared five wickets between them against the Dutch. In the Warm up match this time, they ended up with eight!

To cap it, makeshift spinner in Yuvraj snared four wickets off just 23 deliveries!

If we recall, in the last World Cup, Yuvraj had given similar performance against Namibia at Pietermaritzburg snaring 4 wickets for just 6 runs in 4.3 overs. The left-armer did not get to bowl too much in the Cup, but ended up with an economy of under five.

Now the performance on Tuesday has once again proved that how makeshift spinners are used, especially against the minnows, will decide how the quest for the Cup will shape up for India.

Sore point

The only problem is  India may still not be  able to decide who will partner Ganguly in the first match.  Uthappa and Sehwag - both  got starts but failed to convert them into big scores.

However, just to get them in form, rotating the number three position between Uthappa and Sehwag can be counterproductive. May be the Indian think tank should make it clear that they will only be considered for the opening slot, unless the team is shorn of fit batsmen. False sense of security can lead to complacency.
 
Probably in the next match, Dinesh Karthik, or one of the possible pinch hitters in Dhoni or Irfan can be brought at number three. Especially as Dhoni and Pathan, both have clicked well collectively scoring 46 runs with the blade, and at a very brisk pace.

So the Batting does look in great shape, though playing five bowlers in big encounters might weaken it a little bit.

Unless India opt for two-seamer, two-spinner attack, they will have to soon make a choice between Harbhajan and Kumble.

After the Dutch treat, the two great spinners are on par with two wickets each and almost similar economy. May be the clash against the West Indies in the next warm up encounter will decide who gets the nod for the first few matches.


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