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By R Vishal
India’s woes abroad rolls like a juggernaut from one generation of players to the next. The recent loss at Hamilton against New Zealand ended all hopes of the visitors salvaging anything out of the series and even a major shuffle in the batting and the bowling line-up fell flat on skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s face.
The team management had decided to go with three all-rounders in the fourth One-Day International (ODI), a move that raised questions if that was the way forward or just another experiment, with desperate times driving the team to somehow eke out a victory.
Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin were stacked in the middle-order to lend a rather thin-looking batting line-up. Has Dhoni lost his trust in his aides in the middle-order? The ICC World Cup 2011 had Yuvraj Singh rolling his arm and getting crucial breakthroughs whenever the team needed one. With the Indian bowling looking toothless and impotent in wickets away from home, who does the Ranchi man turn to?
The lower middle-order of Jadeja and Ashwin has exceeded expectations with their big-hitting prowess in the ongoing series in New Zealand but the pace attack of Varun Aaron, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami (is it necessary to add Ishant Sharma’s name here?) combined with Ashwin’s ineptitude with ball, the bowlers have been carted over the small boundaries of New Zealand with minimal fuss. So much so that it drove the helpless Indian skipper to ask his bowlers to use their brains.
One of the most intriguing topics of an Indian cricket aficionado is trying to dissect the thoughts running in the Dhoni, the cricketing marvel’s mind over a cup of coffee. At some point the topic of the Ranchi dasher having a trusted core and backing them to the hilt is sure to crop up.
It is only too well documented how Dhoni has backed the nucleus of Suresh Raina, Ashwin and Jadeja in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and at international level to elevate the trio to who they are today despite having being under immense scrutiny at different junctures in their carrier.
If the fourth ODI is anything to go by, Binny was given a raw deal with the ball (of course, he could not do anything about giving him a bat) — a clear indication on the level of trust that the skipper has on the Karnataka all-rounder’s abilities.
With the bowlers and the middle-order faltering at every turn, the team management might just cave into the increasing calls from experts and commentators to integrate Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara at the top of the order.
Alongside Virat Kohli, Pujara has been the cornerstone of India’s batting in recent years and the top-order batting has been the brains behind India’s victories in the recent past. While Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have had troubles with the rising ball, the year ahead with the upcoming Tests against New Zealand in February and the lengthy tour of England would definitely shape their technique over the next few months. Then there is the ICC World Cup 2015 to look forward to.
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