Thursday, September 21, 2006

Binit, Indian cricket-nut and author of 'It's Only Cricket', suggests India should stick with their opening combination of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tedulkar, with Verinder Sehwag to bat in the number 4 slot for tomorrows big game against Australia in the DLF Cup.
Dravid has tinkered with his team and batting line-up non-stop for the best part of a year. He has captained India in 31 one-day internationals, winning 19 of them. In this time Dravid has batted in every position from 1 to 7 and has averaged 45.6 overall and 39.5 when opening.
He has, however, suffered from the lack of form that has blighted so many of India's prolific batsmen, failing to pass 50 runs in his last 8 matches. Many of India's superstar hitters lack time in the middle ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, where they will be thrust into the spotlight of the Indian media and expected by many home fans to lift the trophy.
In their last 9 matches, since their opening game against the West Indies on 18th May 2006, India's top order have averaged as follows:
Dravid - 23.75, Tendulkar - 110, Sehwag - 31.88, Y. Singh - 30.5, Dhoni - 19.17, Raina - 19.17, Pathan - 14.67.
Tomorrows game could be India's last before the ICC tournament gets underway and perhaps the time has come from Dravid to decide what his batting line-up will be. With the lower order in such uncharacteristic poor form one option for Dravid would be to bat at number 4 himself and try to sure up the middle order with his trademark grit.
Whoever opens will be facing the new-ball pairing of Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee with Tendulkar, they will need their wits about them and a straight bat. Binit, in his analysis, worries about Sehwags technical flaws, it is true to say that he has a weakness against the swinging new ball. Both McGrath and Lee may be able to exploit this if Sehwag goes in first up. Having said that Sehwag is an opening batsman and should be expected to cope with a bit of movement by using his head and leaving the ball when appropriate.
If India bat first they need to try and put a 250+ score on the board in order to get the Aussies under pressure. It would therefore be tempting to allow big-hitters Dhoni and Singh to spend more time at the crease and bat in the number 3 and 5 positions respectively. With Dravid in the middle of them at number 4. Talented youngsteres Raina and Pathan could occupy 6 and 7 positions, looking for quick runs at the end of the innings against the old ball. The weather in Kuala Lumpur has been unpredicable and the humidity has helped the bowlers. India should look to make a solid start to their innings and accelerate as the ball loses its shine, and against the spin of Brad Hogg.
With the atmospheric conditions helping fast-medium swingers of the ball India may also want to opt for a 4 pronged pace bowling attack. Australia seem to be expecting this and have countered by bolstering their batting, naming Andrew Symonds in their squad ahead of Shane Watson as all-rounder. India can bolster their batting by keeping Ajit Agarkar in their squad ahead of fast bowler Rudra Singh.
Steven_L would therefore recommend the following line-up for India:
Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dhoni (W), Dravid (C), Y. Singh, Raina, Pathan, Akarkar, H. Singh, Patel, Sreenath.
Though only tomorrow will tell what Dravid has on his mind.


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