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"Who should be playing at No.7 for India?" The question qualifies to be the single-most popular point of debate looming large on everyone's mind. Cricket pundits, media, blogosphere and discussion forums are thinking aloud while the selectors are keeping a close eye on the contenders. Of course, one doesn't need rocket science to decode the answer. The player at No. 7 has to be an "allrounder" for it's too low for a pure batsman and too high for a bowler to bat. So who is an allrounder? No, he isn't a jack of all trades and master of none. Kallis, who could walk into any team purely as a batsman, and yet deliver with the ball, or Flintoff, who could be the spearhead of any bowling attack, and yet be able to flash his bat, are the ones who win the title hands down.
Let's go over the probables to see who fits the bill best. There has been a lot of debate to bring Irfan Pathan back into the mix. This debate has potential; the guy has shown enough talent and temperament to become a genuine allrounder. With his batting abilities, he could be your ideal No. 7 for he has both the sense to farm the strike and the guts to use the long handle to good effect.
Unfortunately, though, his bowling has put him off the radar. He seems to have lost a bit of pace and swing lately which means that he must bowl with the new ball and stay away from the death overs. But don't we already have Praveen Kumar with the same job profile?
The Indian team can't have both Praveen and Irfan in the playing XI for both of them can't be bowling in tandem with the new ball. More importantly, you can't expect your spinners to be bowling in the batting Powerplay and the death overs. Irfan may be a better batsman but only three quick bowlers can play in the XI which means Irfan must bowl his quota of 10 overs, which seems difficult in the sub-continent, or so the team management believes.
Since the World Cup is slated for the subcontinent, good thinking says, we would need a spinning allrounder rather than a fast-bowling one.
So now the toss-up is between Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja. Ideally the No. 7 batsman should be a big hitter who could hit sixes at ease and going by that criterion Yusuf fits the bill perfectly. And that's why the selectors put him on trial initially but his inability to hit consistently and more importantly his inability to bowl 7-8 overs on a regular basis cost him his place in the side.
Now the only available and promising option left for India is Jadeja. He may be the last choice but not necessarily a bad one. The only thing that goes against him is that he's a grafter and not a big hitter and you'd seldom wish for a grafter at No. 7. But he's bringing enough to the table to make up for that shortcoming. He is bowling his quota of 10 overs on a regular basis at a miserly economy of under five runs an over. He also chips in with a wicket or two to add value. And he's one of the best outfielders with extremely quick legs to cover the ground and a rocket-like throw even from the deep. Though he hasn't set the world alight with the bat, he still averages in the mid-30s in ODIs which isn't poor; keeping in mind that No. 7 is the toughest spot to bat in an ODI. His critics seem to be mixing his T20 failures with his showing in ODIs which is not fair on the guy.
I, and presumably the Indian team too, would go with Jadeja for the World Cup. Once they have identified Jadeja as their ideal No. 7, it's only just to persist with him especially when he's doing his job just fine.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.