Irfan Pathan at Number 3
With a seemingly achievable target at hand, sending Irfan Pathan at number 3 was a questionable decision. The bigger issue though was that Irfan didn’t appear to be batting to a plan. Was he supposed to attack? Was he supposed to bat like a regular number three? If he was sent in to pick a few quick runs to ease the pressure on the rest it certainly didn’t look like that was his intent. He was neither here nor there when it came to helping India achieve the target. He ended with 14 from 30 balls. It appears to be a case of a capable batsman not knowing what he was supposed to do!
What is even more alarming Dhoni’s defense of the decision.
“The Kookaburra ball does a bit in the first 12-15 overs, so it’s important to keep wickets in hand. Once the ball gets old, it becomes easier and is to the batsman’s advantage,” he explained. “Sending Irfan up balances the batting order and keep it stable. And Irfan at 8 or 3 doesn’t make too much of a difference.”
Pathan was sent in to conserve wickets! Sounds like Dhoni has more confidence in Pathan’s ability to survive at the crease than Uthappa, Yuvraj, or Rohit Sharma? How can it make no difference whether Irfan bats at 3 or 8?
Rohit Sharma – Rash Shot
With the loss of a couple of wickets and score of close to 50 on board, Rohit Sharma’s goal would have been to stick it out to the very end, rotate the strike, and build an innings while the stroke makers kept the score moving. Instead he played a completely reckless, airy drive and lost his wicket. Sounds like a case of complete lack of instructions from the captain and the think tank, yet again. If he was indeed instructed to stick around, then it signals a complete lack of responsibility on his part.
Yuvraj at number 3?
This match might have been a perfect opportunity to get Yuvraj back into his groove. At number 3 he would have had plenty of time to settle down and get some runs. Besides, he would have had an eye in before facing up to Brad Hogg (his nemesis of late). Instead Dhoni seems be shielding (or hiding him!) in the batting order, which is truly bizarre. One could argue that the early loss of Yuvraj would have put pressure on the batting. Not really. There would have been Rohit Sharma, Uthappa, Dhoni and Pathan to follow. Moreover, it would given India a good feel for what to do with Yuvraj if he failed yet again.
Munaf is a Misfit
Munaf has lost all his pace. He barely manages to cross the 130+ mark. Matt Hayden tonked him for a 6 in his first over like he was playing a spinner! Munaf can’t bat and his fielding is poor. Apart from being young, his inclusion is contrary to Dhoni’s desire to put together a good fielding side. To top it all, his body language is telling. Wearing a watch, sporting a stuble and ambling up to the wicket, he comes across as someone stranded in line at the electricity board office waiting for things to happen. Surely, he can display some minimal enthusiasm and excitement.
Uthappa Needs Some Exposure
Robin Uthappa has been languishing at the bottom of the batting line up leading the tail. He has shown in the past that he is an aggressive batmen in the Sehwag mould. The Australian pitches might actually suit his style provided he is sent early enough to settle down and get his eye in. With Sehwag not in the team, this would a been a perfect opportunity for Uthappa to come up the order and make some runs. Besides, it would have been a good measure of his current form.
Poor Handling of the Batsmen
Dhoni deserves credit for handling his bowlers extremely well (besides doing a terrific job with the bat). The five bowler combination is a winning strategy and the return of Pathan as the all rounder makes this possible. However, Dhoni’s approach to handling his batting arsenal has been very poor to say the least. Yuvraj is out of form, Sachin and Sehwag haven’t really fired in a big way, Uthappa has not really been tested, the backups Dinesh Karthick and Suresh Raina (both terrific talents in their own right) are busy warming the benches (along with Manoj Tiwari), and the series has already crossed the half way mark. On the bowling front, it might make sense to try Piyush Chawla in place of Harbhajan Singh. Chawla is a better batsman and Harbhajan seldom takes more than a couple of wickets though he does bowl 10 fairly tight overs. Piyush Chawla could be a better wicket taking bowler.
Does Dhoni not have an active team management?
The Indian think tank includes Kirsten, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Sachin, Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh? Surely, they could together come up with a better overall strategy and sensible tactics to orchestrate these easy victories. The sad part is that this is a terrific one day side and clearly has what it takes to beat the Aussies and the Lankans. The match against Sri Lanka will be key to getting their act together and gaining some momentum for this series. Another defeat will make it three in a row and might be harder to recover from.