03 March 2010
Is the eight-batsman theory part of Team India's World Cup plan?
World Cup can be a battle heavily skewed in the batsmen's favour, with flat tracks and short boundaries
India's cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The 1992 World Cup saw a spinner opening the attack when Martin Crowe threw the new ball at Dipak Patel. In the 1996 edition, Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana redefined power-hitting during the first 15 overs.
In the run-up to the 2011 World Cup to be played in the sub-continent now, it seems Mahendra Singh Dhoni has kick-started a new trend in one-day cricket that of playing eight batsmen and only three specialist bowlers in the team.
With Dhoni settling for a permanent bowling all-rounder in Ravindra Jadeja, Team India are experimenting with batsmen doubling up as bit-and-pieces bowlers. 300 has become a par score and plans are afoot to set higher batting benchmarks.
The Gwalior match on Wednesday gave a glimpse of what to expect in the World Cup: a battle heavily skewed in the batsmen's favour, with flat tracks and short boundaries.
"We are looking to strengthen our batting, so that we can score freely and put big totals on the board. Jadeja shaped up really well for us. He's the kind of a guy who can bowl ten overs in every game. It helps that we have one such part-timer to rely upon in Harbhajan's absence," says Dhoni.
"We got this opportunity to play with an extra batsman. We have Yusuf Pathan or Jadeja backing up at No. 8. And if you see we are not short of bowlers either, with Jadeja as a spinning all-rounder, we are lacking a specialist bowler," he says.
And if Team India's strategy is working perfectly well, they need to thank the curators as well who have taken a rather one-dimensional approach when it comes to preparing "good one-day wicket".
"People come to watch fours and sixes. They are not interested if bowlers get plenty of wickets. Also when that happens, questions are raised about the pitch. As curators, we just try to cater to what the public demands," says Ajay Sahrasbuddhe, curator of the Captain Roop Singh Stadium.
Wickets prepared in Rajkot, Jaipur, Gwalior, Ahmedabad have seen teams gearing up to set and chase what would've been considered as stratospheric totals until recently.
It's seems the International Cricket Council (ICC) doesn't see any problem with that either as it is faced with a mammoth task of saving the format.
Meanwhile, India might have to rethink the strategy once Harbhajan Singh returns in the team. While three seamers are almost a necessity, as captains generally rely on the fast bowlers during the 20 overs of power plays and 10 overs in the death, not including Harbhajan in the team is not an option.
"Harbhajan is very important to us, he does the job of taking wickets and also contains runs," says Dhoni, adding that it isn't a rule of thumb that only pacers can bowl in the power plays.
"It depends on the conditions you are playing in. If there's bit of help, there's no harm in spinners bowling in the first ten overs," he said. While it's still early days, Dhoni has certainly set the ball rolling for other teams.
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