Indian think-tank has no choice but to ring in the changes for the game against West Indies © Getty Images
Indian think-tank has no choice but to ring in the changes for the game against West Indies © Getty Images


By Vivek Atray


India’s loss to South Africa at Nagpur in a Group Match of the ICC World Cup 2011 has set the cat among the pigeons. There is a general sense of insecurity among the fans, even though India is still one of the favourites to lift the World Cup.


The one thing that stood out in the game against South Africa is that India’s batting showed signs of nerves and a tendency to collapse like never before in the face of quality bowling. In fact, there was no reason for the middle order batsmen to play as abysmally as they did after the brilliant platform laid by the magnificent Sachin Tendulkar, the marauding Virender Sehwag and the gritty Gautam Gambhir.


Yusuf Pathan and Yuvraj Singh fell to airy-fairy shots while Virat Kohli hit one straight back to the admirable Robin Peterson. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was left stranded at the other end as the remaining batsmen fell in a heap like cycles in a cycle-stand.


A score of 296 proved to be almost too much for the South Africans to chase, but they managed to scrape home in the last over with some fighting contributions by Francois du Plessis, Johan Botha and Peterson after Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers had laid the foundation for them.


India’s attempts to reshuffle the batting order have been a failure in this tournament. Pathan has not been able to deliver the goods up the order and Kohli, so capable at No 3 or No 4, has been a shocker at No 7.


The answer clearly lies in bringing back Suresh Raina to the squad in place of Pathan. While we all love the big-hitting abilities of Pathan, it is evident that Raina would be a bigger asset at No 7 in the batting line-up, and if need be he could even play up the order. He can hit sixes almost as effectively and as frequently as Pathan, and also has the ability to play longish innings more consistently.


The supremely-talented Raina has shone for India in ODIs in recent years, despite a recent slump in form and has been one of the most dangerous batsmen in the IPL. His fielding abilities would also add zing in the ring for the Indian side and Pathan’s off-spinners would not be missed if Ashwin is played in place of Munaf Patel or Ashish Nehra.


With the really big matches still to come – India’s last Group match against the West Indies and then the knockout stage – India needs the Raina factor to come into play in order to make their World Cup campaign a success.


(A civil servant by profession, Vivek Atray is a cricket writer who has contributed to the Indian Express, the Tribune and to various cricket websites. He organises the All India JP Atray Cricket Tournament at Chandigarh annually in memory of his father. He has also been Media Advisor to the Punjab Cricket Association and to Kings XI Punjab)