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Play Laxman to bolster middle order

Atul Sondhi talks of Laxman and other combinations that India need ahead of the series clinching battle.

india Updated: May 24, 2007 04:33 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi

First of all, the two most critical issues of the 1st Test. One was the absence of Kumble, and the second was the figure of 100 for six in India’s second innings.

The second thing first. The score line on day five when India declared, read 100 for six. The loss of six batsmen of such strong batting lineup looks acceptable considering the last four had perished when going for big runs.

But it looks not too flattering as it took India a good 24 overs to reach that three figure mark. At just 4.17 runs per over! That is what Australians normally achieve in a day of routine basis. That is what we achieved in the first innings with both Sachin and Sourav firing.

So the batting, when under pressure to score quickly, does not inspire too much confidence. In these conditions, doesn’t it become important to have an additional middle order batsman to lend solidity against collapse? A batsman, who may not score too quickly, but is able to hold the innings together when others are going for big shots.

Why Laxman?

Laxman here has certain solidity about his game and approach. The last two overseas series that he has played, the Hyderabadi has been quite consistent, averaging 36 against both West Indies and South Africa. It is not a huge average, but then we were playing overseas and, unlike some other batsmen, Laxman could play and click in both the series.

His ability to stay when other are perishing with disturbing regularity was seen in the invaluable 73 runs that he made at Johannesburg to hold the innings together. The importance of the knock can be gauged from the fact that the next most important contributor to India’s innings was a bowler.

Zaheer Khan, at 37.

If India opt for five bowlers again, which they should considering a four bowlers attack (In the absence of Kumble) allowed Bangladesh a rescue act in the 1st innings and did not bother them much in the second innings, they will need to beef up the batting by replacing Jaffer with Laxman, with, preferably, Dravid coming in to open.

Two makeshift openers is generally an idea which no team is going to be comfortable with. But India can try this out against this Bangla attack, especially considering Jaffer has had seven single digit scores in last ten innings at an average of 18.7. Except a big 116 at CapeTown, the Mumbaikar has simply failed to deliver. He scoreline in last ten outings: 1, 1, 9, 4, 26, 28, 116, 2, 0 and 0.

Kumble’s Factor

India did terribly miss Kumble in the match. He has a record of striking both top order and lower order Bangla batsman. His 10 wickets from two tests at an average and a strike-rate, which is half of what he normally achieves, should make him a force to reckon with against the hosts.

Kumble’s Avg and Strike-rate
Runs per wicketBalls per wicket

Overall 2965
Against Bangladesh1434

The only question remains as to how effective Kumble is going to be against a side, which looks extremely confident having managed a draw in the Chittagong Test.

Powar is another certainty in the team especially after showing super cool head in Bangladesh’s second innings, by single-handedly culling their run-chase with his superb control. So is RP after his tremendous first innings’ show.

The leftarmer’s overall performance drew much praise from Bangla coach. "RP Singh bowled really well. It’s not easy to come and deliver the balls past the bat. The conditions were very hard,’’ said Whatmore.

If Munaf indeed recovers form injury, India may have to opt between Zaheer and VRV. Probably the experienced one will get the nod, but that will also be a heartbreak for the young Punjab lad, who had landed some critical blows in the Bangla first innings.

Ideally, the immediate form should be the criteria. India are no longer playing a minnow. They are playing a team which may not have the firepower to finish the big brother twice, but it is a team which does believe that it can escape from most testing of situations.

First Published: May 23, 2007 12:50 IST