ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

India v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Nagpur

Dhoni wants top-order to bat longer

Sharda Ugra in Nagpur

March 11, 2011

Comments: 95 | Text size: A | A

For all the fuss around India's bowlers during this World Cup - normal service could well be resumed within 24 hours - there's another slightly underwritten set of numbers from its first four matches. These numbers come from the unlikeliest of sources: India's top order, from the prime batting positions in the short game, numbers one to three.

India may not have lost a game in this World Cup so far but its opening stands have read: 69, 46, 9, 69. Both Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar have scored hundreds in this Cup - Sehwag reminding Dhaka and the world that a 200 could come any time and Tendulkar following it up with a measured construction of an innings in Bangalore. Yet in the two 'gimme' games that followed - versus Ireland and Netherlands - neither of the openers nor the No. 3 Gautam Gambhir have built from reasonable starts and none of them have crossed 40. Between them, Tendulkar (38, 27), Sehwag (5, 39) and Gambhir (10, 28) have spent significant time at the crease, but have not gone on to dominate.

In a tournament that was supposed to be about big-hitting batsmen on wickets that were belters, outfields that were small and opposition that was tiny, these are underwhelming returns. MS Dhoni believes that it is the start from the trio that will enable India's explosive middle order a chance to play their A-game, which will be needed in what will be India's most revealing match of the World Cup so far: against South Africa in Nagpur.

In his pre-match pow-wow at the VCA stadium, Dhoni said the team was hoping its top order comes through in the rest of the competition: "If we have slightly longer partnerships at the top, the explosive power of our middle and lower-middle order can be used more in the positive way." Read as: if the top three get runs, then Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan will be able to do more than fire-fight like they did against Ireland and Netherlands.

Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag put together 69 runs off 45 balls, India v Netherlands, Group B, World Cup, Delhi, March 9, 2011
MS Dhoni has said that bigger partnerships at the top would help India's cause © AFP

"If our openers can play as long as possible, it will be good for us... what we have seen is that if both Sachin and Viru get going, it gets very difficult to stop them," Dhoni said. And that gives India the launch pad with which to build those innings that will give their unthreatening attack enough to bowl with. He was quick to add that even though "we have not got very big [opening] partnerships" what was important, was "the way we have got the runs".

The struggle against the two Associate teams has given the batsmen who followed the chance to test themselves under pressure, but the top order now needs to give the team the legs to bat through the rest of the competition.

Dhoni said India's batting relied heavily on momentum. "So if we get off to a good start from either momentum point of view or time-period point of view, our lower order can really cash in." In a slightly roundabout way, he was referring to the importance of the top order doing something emphatic against the South Africans: either scoring at a rapid rate or occupying enough overs to give the hitters who follow a chance to crank straight into turbo mode. For the first time, Dhoni looked fatigued on the eve of a World Cup match day. His normally jutting-chin-square-shoulder self slouched over the mike, the tedium of fronting the press evident, even though his replies still came with the full range: from considerate detailing to cutting snub.

The batting, he believed, had gained much from its wobbly performance over four matches: India had set totals and it had chased. It had played on run-heavy wickets and then slow tracks. "We have got fair exposure as to what we may get in the coming games depending on the venue. The first four games have been good for us to get into the groove and be ready for the next leg of the tournament."

With India's quarter-final slot as good as assured, Dhoni said meeting slightly tougher opposition two games before the knockout was a blessing of sorts and gave the team the "liberty of having two extra games" on the side. We will see.

What the Indians need right now, is to get that elusive momentum going. There will be no better time for India's top order to jump-start it than against South Africa on Saturday.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 95 
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Posted by Cricket Fan on (March 14, 2011, 16:09 GMT)

I am sure if Indian team visit IRELAND , India never win...........

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 14:51 GMT)

It seems our best batsmen think themselves as Lords. Dhoni is right. They should play for the country and not for the crowds. Ultimately aim is to win the World Cup. Right

Posted by Tushar on (March 14, 2011, 14:19 GMT)

if india wants to win the world cup then the first thing which they should do is throw dhoni out along with munaf from the team. aswin shoul hv been included from the v begining. all the vague decisions which msd used to take uptill now clicked ex -giving the last over of T 20 world cup final to joginder sharma. but now all such decisions are back firing. why the death overs are not bowled by the best bowlers Zak and bhaji defys any logic. msd made same mistakes in match against England and S.A. by giving the last overs to munaf which costed india dearly

Posted by Tom on (March 14, 2011, 5:41 GMT)

why is sreeshanth not playing..? is he offered only one chance, because he was hit for 10 per over doesnt mean he is not a good bowler. he has good number of wickets palying against NZ, and he did good in the warm up match.. just because one game went bad doesnt mean putting him out is a good idea..if you look at the aggregate last last 5 matches, he has taken over over 10 wickets closely.. I doubt if Munaf or Nehra have done that. also he is an aggressive bowler. and R Ashwin bring him back to the squad. take out Nehra n Munaf as soon as possible. thank you.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 5:20 GMT)

Come on peoples ..dont blame dhoni too much... Cheers team india ...

Posted by Sridhar on (March 13, 2011, 23:26 GMT)

Mr.Dhoni- First you should perform before blaming other batsmen. Always u r commenting about the opening stand, then why u have 7 batsmen in a team. A single batsmen cant perform all the time....

Posted by mopendra on (March 13, 2011, 14:06 GMT)

dhoni is actually jealous man he always dont like senior member or player better than him ....such a narrow minded cricketer he shoul see what he is doing for team

Posted by Pritthijit on (March 13, 2011, 10:03 GMT)

It seemed a promising day for India, as the two openers made an explosive start to the innings. The momentum shifted to South Africa in the last ten overs as India was skittle out for 296 by losing 8 wickets in 28 runs. Team were in a commanding position at 267 for 1 at one stage. Dhoni is justified to be angry, as the middle and lower batmen played irresponsibly by going for big shots, rather than pacing an innings with a singles or two. I have to add Dhoni's form could be better with the bat. India should have clinched victory yesterday, but they got themselves to blame for losing the match due to reckless battling from the middle order batmen.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 13, 2011, 7:09 GMT)

Dhoni wants top-order to bat longer

Dhoni wants play all 50 overs by 1st 3 batsman. & middle order is take rest all time. then why we need dhoni & yuvi for middle order. yesterday we lose match because of middle order batsman. & last over by Nehara. there is still one over left by bajji. then why dhoni give ball to nehara. same mistake happen in england match also. I request you to Dhoni Don't spoil Dream of Sachin , zahir & all indians

Posted by viswa on (March 13, 2011, 3:17 GMT)

dhoni before commenting listen how you are playing ? and what ,s your performance in the last one year in both tests and oneday? simply sufling the position like a great great batsman but nothing working?

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