Australia v India, Commonwealth Bank Series, Sydney February 25, 2012

India face 'best XI' quandary

MS Dhoni had earlier spoken of how the rotation policy will have helped "by the time" India make it to the finals. With "by the time" becoming a big "if", India are set resort to their best XI, but who constitutes that XI is not a straightforward decision

MS Dhoni will persist with Ravindra Jadeja as the allrounder, and Irfan Pathan will play as a specialist bowler in India's near do-or-die match against Australia on Sunday. Dhoni said he was impressed with Irfan's bowling, but that playing him at No. 7 will leave the batting thin. When asked if India will play a specialist batsman at No. 7 as, seemingly, the batting was their main concern, Dhoni said he didn't want to lose out on Jadeja's spin bowling.

It is an interesting persistence. Jadeja is a likable player, no doubt. He fields superbly in the circle, has a rocket arm from the deep, and squeezes every last drop out of his batting and bowling talent. You want to make space for such players in your side, but how long do you persist, and do you respect conditions? The fact remains that Jadeja is neither as good a timer of the ball as Irfan nor as good a bowler in Australian conditions with two new balls being used.

This thought process points to a limited side that happens to be out of form too. In other words, Dhoni is not confident that his four specialist bowlers and Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Virender Sehwag can bowl 50 overs among them. Nor does he trust his six best batsmen followed by Irfan and R Ashwin to bat out - and bat out convincingly - 50 overs. You have to empathise with Dhoni here: the batting is struggling, and you will never bet your well-earned money on India's bowlers, bar two, completing their quota.

One of those two bowlers, Zaheer Khan, is out with a calf injury, which is the reason Irfan was tried out in the first place. The second, Praveen Kumar, has played only two ODIs in this series despite being fit. Given Vinay Kumar's hamstring injury, Praveen is likely to return, but Dhoni made it clear he wasn't the first choice as his pace and length had fallen away following a rib injury that kept him out of the Test series.

"He is swinging the ball," Dhoni agreed, but added, "after he has come back from injury, he has dropped down in pace a bit. From a bowler who was bowling just over 130, the last game that he played, he bowled close to 125 and below that. And he was bowling a fraction short. At that pace if you are a fraction short, then players have more opportunity to cash in."

Dhoni said that with the injuries forcing him to rotate players, there was no need to employ an extra rotation policy. When India had won two matches in a row and tied the third, Dhoni had spoken of how the rotation policy will have helped "by the time" India make it to the finals. "By the time" has become a big "if" now. And so, he suggested he would go back to playing the best XI, meaning Rohit might miss out again.

It was a bold move to back the youngsters, to give them more exposure, or even look for a better fielding unit. The motive behind the move cannot be questioned in a vacuum. The communication can be, but that's a different matter now. At the end of the day, the youngsters haven't taken those opportunities. Rohit has all but played himself out, Raina has only been marginally better. Dhoni is not giving up on them any time soon, though.

"Not disappointed," he said, "because every time any individual goes on to the field he wants to perform. And at times you can't perform. It has happened to each and every one who has played international cricket. It's just that most of our batsmen haven't done consistently well in the series, so we are feeling the pressure.

"Doesn't matter who you are or where you are batting, if you think of the first six batsmen as a unit. Out of first six, if three or four of them are performing, it doesn't matter who is the person who is not performing. Because what happens is, as a team you do well. You can give those extra few games to the individual who has not done well.

"But when you are going through a phase where you are struggling a bit, then it becomes difficult to give that particular individual those extra two games or three games, which may make him turn things around. You have to go by the demands of the game, and right now we are not in a very good situation. We are in a do-or-die situation, and the best XI will feature based on fitness and availability."

What the best XI is, is another matter altogether. There are various factors to be considered: slow fielders, injuries, bowlers who can't be trusted to bowl ten overs every day, out-of-form batsmen. You wouldn't want to be in Dhoni's shoes right now.

Edited by Nikita Bastian

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2012, 2:43 GMT

    I pity on Manoj Tiwary these days. Despite making a brilliant century in testing conditions at tha Chepauk, he has never been tried out... The entire team is in tatters.... Even if Team India reach the final somehow, still there is an immediate need for a change. No more sachin and no more tolerance with the Mysterious injuries to the players would certainly help the Team a lot. Why are Raina, Jadeja playing continuously and Tiwary not even getting a spot in the team. That seems impartial to me on Dhoni's behalf. It's time to take some audacious decisions now.... Sachin is becoming a liability to the team.... He should be shown the door like what was done to Ponting a few days ago... There's no place for emotions in a game like cricket. God save team India... It comes from a hardcore Indian fan.

  • sri on February 26, 2012, 2:40 GMT

    " but that playing him at No. 7 will leave the batting thin." why so? Jadeja was never a batsman. Pathan is much better. And jadeja's bowling is not even good outside india (either T20 or WC). IPL not only spoiled the seniors but introduced such bits and pieces of players. @JB77 Agree Smith is also bits and pieces player but a better timer with bat than jadeja

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2012, 2:38 GMT

    Can some one please clarify how is Jadeja an all-rounder ? Does all rounder mean some who can't bat and ball, or does it mean some one who can run all round the field ? If it means neither of the above 2, then Jadeja can't be called an all rounder ?

  • Nish on February 25, 2012, 23:05 GMT

    This guy Jadeja, reminds me of another "Joginder Sharma"... can't bowl can't bat.....

    Jadeja must have done something right.. to keep players like Irfan, Manoj Tiwary out of the team..... even after failure, after failure, after failure....

    I do not understand how he is seen as a batting alrounder - when all he makes is a meek 20 or 30 at 70-80 strike rate.. and still cannot even save the bonus point in all those defeats.. Irfan atleast saved a bonus point for us..

  • Jordan on February 25, 2012, 22:32 GMT

    With the influence that the BCCI has on....well....everything, I wouldn't be suprised if Dhoni was being put under pressure to retain Jadeja in the side. I mean it's hard to make the IPL look like a legitimate competition if the most expensive player is dropped when it turns out he's actually quite useless. Jadeja reminds me of Steven Smith that we persisted with for so long: bowling a bit, batting a bit and being dynamic in the field doesn't add up to a complete cricketer. These 'bits-and-pieces' players are the worst thing that the T20 revolution has done to cricket in my opinion.

  • Anit on February 25, 2012, 22:11 GMT

    The currrent tour for India is washed out completely. I don't think this team is going to finals. Its time to rebuild. Shewag should be selected only to play in subcontinent. He is approaching 35 and has not done much with bat now for two years outside of subcontinent. 2012 should be the last year for SRT to represent India. Rohit Sharma is big question mark. He seems to have technic but his batting is totally brainless. Raina and Jadeja are not players who can handle pace and bounce. BCCI should pick set of teams, one for subcontinents and one for non-subtinent based on players skills not only past records.

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2012, 22:02 GMT

    Ashwin & Jadeja should go out for tomorrow's Game, Dhoni should use 5 specialized bowlers and he should trust remaining 6 Batsman. but if he still use both of them and not give chance to Rahul Sharma ,so defenitly there is a CSK factor as others said.1 Tendulkar 2 Sehwag 3 Gambhir 4 Kohli 5 Raina 6 Dhoni 7 Irfan 8 Praveen 9 Rahul 10 Vinay 11 Yadav

  • Johnathon on February 25, 2012, 21:32 GMT

    I can see India winning if they are chasing, but will be hard to defend a total with such horrible bowlers against in form Forrest, Clarke, Hussey Brothers, and a violent Daniel Christian

  • Johnathon on February 25, 2012, 21:25 GMT

    @iarkin you say that Dhoni is the best captain in the recent months? He is the man who got whitewashed TWICE In a ROW and also having a poor ODI record away from home (whitewashed in ODI's in England). Then you have someone like Mahela who's captaincy turned an ODI side from being 43 all out in South Africa to being one of the best teams in this tournament. Dhoni has never been a good captain. His field placings have been ridiculous and his selection (leaving either Sehwag, Tendulkar, or Gambhir out??!?!) has been insane. Dhoni is, however, a great player in the One Day format, but captaincy wise, I do not think he is good. Winning world cups does not mean your captaincy is good, it means your team is good. Now that the teams are not as good as they were, we really see his captaincy for what it is: a farce

  • iar on February 25, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    Dear writer, why are you trying to push your personal prejudice against Dhoni? A cursory glance of all your recent articles clearly proves that you are trying to settle scores against one of the best leaders of men India has had in the last few months.

    If Raina and Rohit have not set the scoreboard afire, neither have Sachin or Sehwag. Seriously, fighting against the captain and getting out twice playing the same shot (to the third man) against the same team -- and you are supporting Sehwag? And the only fellow showing any sort of fighting spirit out there - Dhoni - gets caned by you?

    Dont use your job as a vehicle to settle personal scores against Dhoni - just because he does not give you any fodder to write any sensational third page gossip on a cricket magazine, which you and some of your fellow writers are desperately trying to convert into a paparazzi magazine.

    Thank you Sambit Bal and Harsha Bhogle for writing for the real cricket fan!!!

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