The Ranatunga Column August 10, 2005

India done in by bad planning

Arjuna Ranatunga



Virender Sehwag: would have done well to play Chaminda Vaas with caution © AFP

India could be the worst fielding side in the world at present. They allowed extra runs in the field and lost a few while running between the wickets during the final of the Indian Oil Cup against Sri Lanka. Add them all up and you have the difference between winning and losing.

There were two regulation chances in the slips which were dropped off Sanath Jayasuriya. It was the surest way to invite disaster. Virender Sehwag has dropped quite a few catches in this tournament. In a way, it was ironic that a bit of smart fielding ejected Jayasuriya from the middle. India must count themselves lucky for Jayasuriya had set himself up for an innings of 150 or 160 runs. He was in his groove and was bisecting the field with his customary precision.

Along with Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, Jayasuriya was one of the three senior-most cricketers who mattered for Sri Lanka in the final. These three are of timeless quality, the rocks who have braved the onslaught of faster, fitter and stronger one-day cricket from one decade to another. India should have been alert to these formidable men. Instead, we had a Virender Sehwag who wanted to take on Chaminda Vaas. Sehwag needed to differentiate between a Lokuhettige and a Vaas. He had the Sri Lankan attack on their knees. Another 10 overs at the crease and he would have been the toast of India. In the end, what did he achieve? - Just a glimmer of hope, when India could have basked in his glory.

India just did not plan well enough. If you give four to five wickets to the duo of Vaas and Murali, that's a blow to the guts. India needed to target and create more Lokuhettiges among the Sri Lankans. The best way to do it was in the middle overs for Vaas and Murali would have given nothing away at the death. Dravid and Yuvraj had a good partnership but I would have preferred Irfan Pathan ahead of Mohammad Kaif at that critical juncture.

Not that Sri Lanka were without fault. I feel they were off to a really bad start. The promotion of Lokuhettige made no sense. The hosts had more experienced pinch-hitters like Vaas, Upul Chandana, Tilakeratne Dilshan and Farveez Mahroof and yet opted for a rookie on a stage as special as a final. Mahela Jayawardene was sensible and Russel Arnold is back to where he belongs but again they made a hash of things in the final overs.

Sri Lanka also went with a bad mix in the finals. To me, there were only three proper bowlers in Sri Lanka team: Chaminda Vaas, Muthiah Muralitharan and Farvez Mahroof. The rest were all fill-in bowlers. The best and the barest combination in one-day cricket is at least four frontline bowlers. I would have never dropped Nuwan Zoysa from the line-up. He is a tough cookie and always brings wickets upfront. When Sehwag was skinning the likes of Mahroof and Lokuhettige to the bones, Zoysa was missed badly.

Somehow I remain skeptical about the five frontline bowlers theory. Do we have an example in world cricket where five specialist bowlers have mattered in one-day context? Even Australia restricts itself to four quality bowlers. India looked for thoroughbreds when multidimensional cricketers are the call of one-day cricket. The likes of Arnold and Dilshan, Brad Hogg and Ashley Giles, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi are able to don different hats as required in the fluid world of one-day cricket. Remember: single dimensional talents are easy to mark and sometimes a solitary arrow is enough to bring them down to earth. But if you are a chameleon, you can sneak in and move ahead with the furtiveness required in one-day cricket. One keeps hearing that this Indian team needs more time to turn around the corner. They would surely not be able to do so if the legs and spirits are as tardy as that of the present lot.