Sachin Tendulkar needs to drop down the batting order to arrest batting collapse © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar needs to drop down the batting order to arrest batting collapse © Getty Images

 

By Vincent Sunder

 

The Indian team’s late innings batting collapse has become a near-chronic problem. Barring the opening match against Bangladesh, the Indian team has slumped in three of the other five qualifying matches of the 2011 World Cup.

 

The collapse saw India tie a match which it should have comfortably won against England and lose the game against South Africa. It’s only the inexperience and lack of pedigreed players in the West Indies line-up that helped India avoid a loss.There are no guarantees that the collapses won’t get repeated again. But another such collapse could mean the exit door from the quadrennial showpiece championship.

 

Where exactly is the problem and what is the solution? The problem is with losing wickets quickly, and the solution is not to lose wickets!  Fairly simple to find a solution, armed with a keyboard. The line-up after Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir is Virat, Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan or Suresh Raina. The most experienced of the lot is Yuvraj, for whom the No 4 slot seems apt. Kohli is best utilized at No 3, but that is in conflict with the position Gambhir is slotted at. Dhoni, Pathan and Raina over time have played in the lower order as finishers!

 

Pathan failed in all the collapses in his bid to go ballistic. Kohli is clearly not cut out to come in at the end. Raina swiped a catch off a ball that otherwise would have been a wide, and whether Dhoni was playing for the country or for the ‘home’ crowd yesterday is unclear, but on two occasions he has fallen to aggressive shots.

 

How do we arrest the collapse? Whilst the middle/lower order certainly has talent and match- winning abilities, they have got lost like a flock of sheep without a shepherd to herd them. Think a little deeper, and one thought that comes is whether these talented guys have the pedigree of a Rahul Dravid or Saurav Ganguly or VVS Laxman – talented batsmen who used their mind to read the game situation well. All three were mentally strong and aware of how the game was going to pan out. The problem with our repeated collapses, perhaps, is more of not reading the game well and faulty shot selection.

 

It was a line of thinking that was shared with three cricket-knowledgeable friends, who didn’t quite agree since they were of the view, ‘why fix something that isn’t broken’, but this thought is more on fixing the repeated lower-order collapse towards the end of the game.

 

The solution is apparent: Open the innings with Sehwag and Gambhir. They know each other pretty well, have played a lot together and are openers capable of providing a good start. Yes, it would mean the best batsman in the side doesn’t get to bat right through 50 overs. But then the strongest mind in the line-up would serve India better if he were to arrive around the 30th over, when there would also be a harder replaced ball in operation at over No 34, and shepherd the potential match-winners with his presence at the other end.

 

His own run-making aside, he can guide the other batsman like no one else can. It is a known fact that Tendulkar prefers to open, but the situation is such that India needs some quick fixing to ensure the potentially strong batting line-up lives up to expectations at a crucial stage of this tournament. Saurav Ganguly dropped himself, breaking a fine successful opening pairing with Tendulkar, to accommodate Sehwag at the opening slot. It was a selfless act in the interest of the team. India should open with Sehwag and Gambhir and pencil in Virat at No 3 and Yuvraj at No 4.  Around the 30th over mark, it should be time for Tendulkar to arrive.

 

Yes, in the bargain, Tendulkar’s 100th hundred may possibly have to be put off for some other day, but another opportunity for him to be part of a World Cup winning side may probably not come, even if he looks good enough to be around for the next World Cup.

 

(Vincent Sunder aspired to play Test cricket, but had to struggle to play ‘gully’ cricket! He managed a league side to title triumph in the KSCA tournaments. He was debarred from umpiring in the gully games after he once appealed vociferously for a caught-behind decision when officiating as an umpire! After two decades in the corporate sector, he became an entrepreneur with the objective of being able to see cricket matches on working days as well.  Vincent gets his ‘high’ from cricket books and cricket videos and discussing cricket)