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Loss an open-ended problem

Rahul Dravid called it "a temporary lapse of reason" but I would look deeper for the reasons behind India's batting collapse, writes Geoffrey Boycott.
None | By Geoffrey Boycott
UPDATED ON MAR 23, 2006 09:43 PM IST

Rahul Dravid called it "a temporary lapse of reason" but I would look deeper for the reasons behind India's batting collapse at the Wankhede.

To me, this batting line-up is not what it was two years ago in Australia, though the names may be the same. Sehwag, bad back or no bad back, has been in poor form and lacking in confidence for quite a while and Tendulkar is in the worst form of his career.

Indeed, Sachin has had to contend with too many injuries and illnesses in the recent past, and apart from taking a toll on his body, they have kept him out of cricket too often. Now that he's going to sit out for a further two months, I don't think he can ever come back to regain what he once had.

Chappell's theory of using five bowlers looks good on paper because the team has more bowling options. But when India play five bowlers, it looks as though Chappell is trying to make up for a lack of quality with quantity.

Playing five bowlers weakens the batting, so you need much better batting from the top five batsmen, and at the moment, they are not in good form, which makes a good case for the inclusion of Laxman.

When it comes to seaming pitches as we saw at the Wankhede, the middle-lower order are not dependable.

The Indian lower and middle order comprises players like Yuvraj, who are stroke-makers and crowd pleasers, who can hit lots of fours and sixes on good batting pitches, and whose looks and star status make them the darlings of the crowds, but they depend more on hand-eye coordination than technique.

Nothing illustrates my point better than the appalling way in which the lower order threw the match away once Dravid and Sachin got out. Agreed, they would probably not have saved the match but one would have expected them to at least try.

What made it worse was the decision to send in Kumble and Pathan yesterday. In my view, bowlers take wickets and batsmen make runs. That's the basic rule of cricket.

It is absurd to expect two lower-order players to negotiate the new ball, and that brings me to Dravid's mental block against opening, which is mystifying. He is technically the best equipped to open, and often has to walk out so early as to virtually do so, but he just will not promote himself to number one.

India have experimented with numerous opening partnerships recently, and openers have come and gone. Good openers are precious because they set a platform for the rest, as Gavaskar used to do, so when Sehwag was injured, Dravid ought to have been the automatic replacement.

Particularly when the jury's still out on Jaffer. He scored a century on the flat Nagpur track but I'm not convinced about his abilities in the face of a moving ball. The other thing Dravid has to answer for is his decision to bowl.

No one has asked him why, though I expected Dean Jones to do so either at the toss or prize distribution. Everyone is allowing him to avoid answering what all of India is asking, because the toss is where it all went wrong.

In the end, nothing illustrated the frustration and desperation of the Mumbai crowd more than the chants of 'We want Sourav'. Like him or leave him, Ganguly was the best captain India had, and yet, for political or personal reasons, he will probably never find a place in this team again.

A lot of Indian players will not like what I've said, but these are home truths that need to be told. If a halfstrength English side can force them to capitulate so meekly, I can't imagine what things will be like when they come visiting England in 2007!

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