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The order changeth too often!

Greg's 'horses for courses' policy has confused the players, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2006 12:08 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

The focus is shifting towards the Tests, with the instant variety over and the Indians trying to adjust to the classical form of the game.

For a team to have done little of note in Tests of late with lots to cherish in one-dayers until the Caribbean calamity, it might be worthwhile to have a recap of what went wrong.

Virender Sehwag’s gestures in the last ODI each time he saw a wicket fall symbolised the Indian effort in the four lost games. After a one-on-one with sports psychologist Rudi Webster — whom the Indians have hired for eight days — the opener was going great guns, only to find that there was no one to give him company. He swung his bat in disgust every time he saw a wicket fall.

It encapsulated India’s plight — that they never fired in unison. Be it Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Sehwag or Mohammad Kaif, none found support when they clicked. The West Indies were an inspired lot, but the biggest reason behind this debacle (disappointment, not disaster, as Greg Chappell put it) was the failure of a batting unit held in high esteem till recently.

India missed the enormous presence of Sachin Tendulkar, which prompted Dravid to open, thus removing from the middle-order somebody who has been a symbol of stability. With the Mumbai master remaining uncertain to be available for a long period, this is a problem the team must solve immediately.

But the experiments in the Caribbean raised more questions than answering them. The No. 3 slot is the one to have undergone this trial and error method the most. Irfan Pathan has had more failures than successes there, while Suresh Raina didn’t look as convincing there as he did lower down the order. It’s a pivotal position and despite all the talk on going through a process (men who matter keep repeating that there is one), the Indians have reason to lose sleep over it.

Any other team in the world would have had Dravid at No. 3 but for some queer team dynamics, the Indians are averse to this. Kaif could have been the next choice, but he rarely gets the chance to bat unless the team is three down. Not that these experiments have unsettled players already, but there is a sense of uneasiness. It’s learnt that they themselves aren’t sure which numbers they are going to bat in until the day of the match and not all are too comfortable with the situation. None, of course, are willing to go public on this.

This problem appears starker with the team deciding to go in with five bowlers. Chappell said there is nothing “steadfast” with this plan and that “horses for courses” is still the policy, but team combinations preferred recently suggest he is clear about what kind of ‘horses’ he is looking at. Four defeats against a troubled side after riding a tide of success shouldn’t be seen as a preamble to prolonged plight. Looking ahead, these should still be seen as a wake-up call so that one-day wonders don’t turn one-day woes overnight.