India v England, 1st ODI, Rajkot January 11, 2013

New rules, old problems for India

India's batsmen are usually unstoppable in Rajkot-like conditions. One of the reasons for their failed chase is that age-old conundrum in Indian one-day cricket: whether to go with seven specialist batsmen or not

"I don't want to sound arrogant, but it seemed easy when (Suresh) Raina and I were in the middle, with five fielders in the circle," MS Dhoni said after India's nine-run defeat to England in Rajkot. Dhoni is regarded among the best finishers in ODI history, and it is a sign of his confidence that even with the asking rate in double-digits and the last specialist batting pair in the middle, he thought his team were in charge.

One of the reasons for that self-belief is that India's home one-day success has been built on their batting might, especially on flat tracks. The Indian bowling has rarely been short of a weak link or two, and victories have generally arrived on the basis of an "anything the opposition scores, we can chase" mentality or a "bat first and make enough to cover for the shaky bowling" thinking.

It may have been the first match at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium, but the track was as flat as anything dished up at that batting beauty that was the Madhavrao Scindia ground, Rajkot's previous international venue.

These are the sort of conditions India's batsmen are nearly unstoppable in. Witness the dramatic shift in fortunes for the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh. In the recent Pakistan series, with the ball swerving around and Saeed Ajmal spinning it both ways, you were expecting dismissals every over, so nervy were the Indian batsmen. In Rajkot, they were regularly finding the boundaries.

India may have never chased as big a target at home as they were asked to in Rajkot, but the super-quick outfield gave them another reason to believe. "It was really fast," Dhoni said. "On a normal ground this could have been a 270-280 score. Once you push into the gap (here) there's a boundary for you."

Despite the outfield, a string of soft dismissals and a top-score of 61 meant India ended up short. The other reason for the chase derailing is that age-old conundrum in Indian one-day cricket: whether to go with seven specialist batsmen or not.

Dhoni, usually the most imperturbable of players, showed his frustration at Raina's chip back to the bowler James Tredwell in the 42nd over, perhaps realising that he'd have to provide all the big hits if India were to get the remaining 83 runs. Ravindra Jadeja has proved effective with the ball, especially under the new rules forcing five fielders in the circle, but isn't quite the No. 7 batsman needed when a high-scoring game is headed towards a tight finish. He has muscled some mighty sixes in the IPL, though a similar ability hasn't been replicated at the international level, especially with the team in trouble.

After the failure of Yusuf Pathan in that spot, the headache was solved during the 2011 World Cup by Yuvraj taking over as the fifth bowler. With the new rules forcing Dhoni away from his dependence on part-time bowlers, Jadeja is getting picked as an allrounder ahead of specialist batsmen Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara.

The problem could perhaps be solved once Irfan Pathan returns to full fitness. He is a player of whose batting India have expected a touch too much at times, but he could provide the power needed at No. 7 besides plenty of overs with the ball. Add in Jadeja at No. 8, followed by R Ashwin at No. 9.

The return of Irfan could also lead to another halt to the limited-overs career of Ishant Sharma, who India have turned to presumably because the selectors want a quick bowler with experience, given that Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda and Shami Ahmed are all new at the international level and a host of others are injured.

Ishant hasn't featured regularly in the one-day side for around three years, and in Rajkot he showed why. Despite bowling tidily with the new ball - including two maidens - he was battered for 86 runs in 10 overs. He hardly bowled any yorkers, regularly allowing the batsmen to get under the ball and put it away.

Ishant's off-colour performance also leaves Dhoni pondering how to sort out that other familiar problem for India - the death bowling. "We have to look how good Shami Ahmed is when it comes to bowling yorkers and wickets like these where there is not much to offer for the fast bowlers," he said. "That's why we went for Dinda (today), because he is experienced and he executes the yorkers well." Perhaps the next match in Kochi is the place to find out.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on January 14, 2013, 16:42 GMT

    India lost the first ODI due to poor team selection + Bowling- Root cause of both was MS Dhoni. India cannot go with the same XI & suddenly expect the team of Losers to be winners by Miracle. This is the blunder Dhoni & the Indian Selectors are making consistently with losses record confirming it. First of all Kohli who led the team to victories thru his ODI batting is failing very badly. He scored 102 total runs in last 7 ODI's & only 25 in last 4 ODI's where India lost. Reliable batting demands Pujara @#3 & Kohli #4. This allows Kohli to build his confidence & hot Pujara to make his contribution. This is a "Given" which any Captain would do first. Secondly, Focus on 3 spinners -Jadeja,Ashwin &Yuvraj+Raina+2 Seamers- B.Kumar & Shami. This allows Pujara to play in XI thereby reinforcing batting with reliablility. Also Dinda & Ishant gave about 144 runs in 18 overs. Nadeem & Agarkar would be best replacements.But in squad Yuvraj + Raina can also do better together with Shami.Be Clever!

  • Sriram on January 14, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Its ironical that Dhoni says he picked Dinda coz he can bowl yorkers and yet bowled him only for 8 overs after picking 2 wkts and not giving him the ball in overs 48 to 50. The old Dhoni always backed his actions by saying somethign sensible., The new Dhoni has cluttered mind and doesnt even know what he says. Such can be the pressure in a cricket cray nation.

  • Muralidharan on January 14, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    Dhoni is a good player and was a good captian too. However, his confidence at this juncture is very low and whatever decision he takes it is likely to be backfired. Having said so, repeated defeats due to reapeated faults cannot be acceptable to Indian cricket fraternity. The time is very near the crowd start to target the players who does not perform but still want to remain in the team. Players like Rohit Sharma should not be given any more chance. One wonder, what is the place of Ashwin in the team, as a bowler or batsman or all rounder. None of the above suits him. Harbhjan is far better than this stupid bowler. Bring Harbhajan ( I am not so happy about his performance during the last couple of years) and he will bring some aggression and metan toughness to the Indian Team which India sorely misses at this point of time. Another thing once Irfan and Yousuf become available,both these brothers should be given a chance to play together.

  • Vanarp on January 14, 2013, 0:31 GMT

    India should really try out Shami Ahmed...he is the only choice. They also have to sort out their batting problems. Why not put Ishank Jaggi into the Test or ODI teams?

  • Ashok on January 13, 2013, 21:32 GMT

    Sid, I can strongly recommend a New Rule for India "Never field the same Xi after losing!". Evaluate Root cause for the loss + implement corrective Actions. May be 2 bowlers & 2 batsmen failed - partially or badly. Get suitable replacement from outside the squad if needed. This is a standard practice. Every country in the World does this in each & every sport. But India is the only stubborn country who plays the same Losers XI in Cricket. By reinforcing the team XI with with better bowlers or Batsmen (missing in the losing team), the Team confidence goes up & new spirit for Victory emerges. However, knowing the Indian Captain Dhoni, he will persist with the same XI right up to the batting order. Not only that he believes that the same team can win.With this simplistic attitude, India lost the Test series in England, Australia & in India. Now they lost an ODI series to Pakistan in India & may lose the ODI series to England if this Dhoni's Culture continues.BCCI need to take Action Now!

  • Anshuman on January 13, 2013, 16:17 GMT

    It appears as if Ind not only has to fight the opponent, but also itself. In this game, Ind made a few mistakes such as Why not pick Pujara, who is in great form? He probably would have hit a 100 and won Ind the game. Ishant has been successful bowling first change, so why make him open the bowling? Other case could be Sammi vs Dinda. Playing 5 bowlers is the right move, now what Ind needs to do is focus on picking 5 best batsmen and bowlers.

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    Kohli is certainly on a bad patch. Persisting with him will be good for him only not for the team in this do or die situation. Shami Ahmed had an excellent debut against Pakistan and Aswin is getting too predicable for English men. An extra batsaman could have won the match in Rajkot. My team for the second ODI will be Ajinkya Rahane, Goutham Gambhir, Chetheswar Pujara, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni,Rohit Sharma, Amit Mishra,Bhuvaneswar Kumar,Ashok Dinda, Shami Ahmed

  • kalyan on January 13, 2013, 14:22 GMT

    DHONI WAS captain of BEST indian cricket team not the other way round: Dhoni says dinda was picked for his Yorker's capability but he does not give him final overs......ishanth never has history of bowling good yorkers still was given final over....he says he want to give chance to youngsters (Jadeja) but forunately carries Tiwari, rahane as 12th man for years after years and series after series..he says Yuvraj is not regular bowler hence he is consiously not bowling him due to new ODI rules of 5 fields but he throws bowl to Raina or kohli who are not even comparable with Yuvraj's bowling skills....he has distinction of playing 3 spinners on pacy australian tracks to side lining I pathan to play his chamcha (R jadeja)....Pathan's strength is swing and you make him sideline for long time for your dont use yuvraj as 5th bowler when he is best form(bowling) to justify your selection of Jadeja as 5th are creating opportunities @cost of your country

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    It is funny to watch indian fans. just 5 matches ago you considered kohli as close to tendulkar. and now you want to drop him?. truly, he is only the quality batsman in indian team, who can play well at least against sri lanka,bangladesh, west indies and pakistan. just be patient. he will fire someday. may be after this year.

  • Adeel on January 13, 2013, 7:48 GMT

    If Dinda is a got death bowler, why he as not utilized for full quota and he bowled only 8 overs where as Ishant was made to bowl 10. Amazing captaincy you select a bowler for a specific reason and don't give him full overs at that time :)!!! Whoes fault is this? BCCI's or Dhoni's?

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