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Sight Screen

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

All rounders -- the sequel

Reverting to the subject of a previous post, Arjuna Ranatunga once put this all-rounder business in perspective. During the 1996 Cup campaign, I remember asking him what he thought the secret of Sri Lanka's success was, and he attributed it to two factors more than any other (and neither was the batting prowess of Aravinda and Jayasuriya).
First, he said, the team was playing in conditions it knew to a T, so it had a perfect map of strategy. And from that, he argued, led the second -- the decision to pack the side with all rounders.
He pointed out that the team had two kinds -- batsmen of high quality, who could fill in a few overs (Arjuna himself, Aravinda, Jayasuriya and the like), and bowlers of caliber, who could contribute runs with the bat (Chaminda Vaas, for instance). Besides, he pointed out, they had one other all rounder -- Kaluwitharana, who held down his job as wicket-keeper, but was equally handy with the bat.
Think about it -- it is not as if SL had all-rounders in the Kapil/Botham/Hadlee mould, match winners with either bat or ball. It was more like, every member of the side had a day job, but he also contribute a mite to the opposite department.
Think of the Indian ODI team in that light. Sehwag, Saurav, Sachin, Yuvraj (Mongia, when he plays) all bowl. Dhoni holds down his wicket-keeping day job, but is also handy with the bat. Pathan and Zaheer can both weigh in with the bat; Bajji is capable of whacking the ball around in disruptive cameos and even Ashish Nehra has been known to clout the odd six off Shoaib Akthar.
Perhaps the real trick is not to go looking for all-rounders, but to consistently use the skill sets the above players have? If you glance through scoreboards, you will find say a Sehwag bowling in the first game of a series, and then not bowling at all. A Sachin or a Saurav will bowl in one game, then not at all. And no one really pushes the bowlers to excel with the bat -- so much so, even in the practise nets, by the time bowlers get their turn at bat there is often no one barring a few young children around to bowl to them.
I'd think India needs to stop hunting for a non-existent unicorn; instead, to understand that this all-rounder business is merely a matter of maximising the output of each member of the side. And hey, if an all-rounder of genuine ability comes along, great, we can all sing hosannas... but why the dirge while we are waiting?

4 Comments:

  • Thats exactly what I meant in the last article comment.. For some strange reason, the irregularities in bowling options has been noted but unexplained.. as you pointed out.. in 1st odi - sehwag bowls, no sign of sachin and yuvaraj. in others sachin bowls and other 2 cool their heels. and it goes on.. It has happ be4 too with Robin Singh, and Sodhi who never bowled at all.. Strange are the ways of Indian Cricket!!

    By Blogger Vivhyd, at 13:33  

  • Prem:

    Go back and re-visit all the world cups right from 1975. We have had 8 world cups so far. You would find that the majority of the world cups have been won by teams that possessed deep bowling/batting line-ups. Mild exception to that rule would be the 1979 West Indies team. They had only one all-rounder in terms of Collis king who made a huge difference in the finals…but they also had 4 other world-class bowlers. Besides that 79 team, you will find that almost every team had lower order batsmen who contributed at crucial moments or had additional bowlers who chipped in and took important wickets.

    Imagine what would have happened to the 83 world cup finals if India’s last 2 wickets had not added 40+ runs against a world-class West Indies bowling. 83-team had people who could bat all the way. The current Indian lower-order simply does not possess such capabilities.

    Point is that in a long tournament it is inevitable that in a match or two your upper order batsmen are going to fail. You have to have a back-up for such failures. It happened to Australia (in the 2003 world cup) more than once and their lower order batsmen saved them. Same thing is true for bowlers. You cannot cross the hurdle with 3-4 bowlers. You need a good set of all-rounders and back up bowlers who will compensate for unexpected failures.

    The other key similarity to all the world cup winning teams was that most of them had a very good fielding side. Last but not least….6/8 world cup winning teams batted first.
    96 SL team was the only team to chase a total of 250. The 99-Australian team chased a total of 130.

    I strongly believe all-rounders are a must to win something like a world cup. You got to have a long batting line up and extra bowlers to back up the regular bowlers. As American saying goes… Offence win matches and Defense win Championships. To me…a good defense in Cricket is made up of good bowling backed up a strong fielding. No wonder the current Indian team wins matches and lose championships.

    By Anonymous N, at 13:47  

  • I think India has a wealth of batting all-rounders. Which team in the world (besides the Aussies) can have as many as 4 strike bowlers (Zaheer, Irfan, Balaji, Bhajji, Kumble, Kartik form the pool of bowlers) along with other options like Sachin, Ganguly, Sehwag and Yuvi. Even Dravid can bowl a tidy spell. Now we have plenty of people who can bowl. A total of 8 is just huge. Iti s just a matter of strategizing and using them properly. As someelse has said in the comment above, Sachin gets used then he gets shelved and yuvi gets used the next time. There is no continuity as far as the bowling goes. There also seems to be a lack of imagination when we bowl to Afridi. Sachin keeps bowling in the rought while Kumble keeps attacking the leg stump. I think there is a serious lack of strategy. Every bowler should have a role to play in the 50 overs. As Chappel as said earlier, that we have to be flexible and I totally agree but still each one should have a role. Containment seems to be the only role that these indian greats are fiddling with. It is really baffling to see Bhajji bowling a flat trajectory and a leg stump line. Why is that. These bolwers are supposed to be wicket taking bowlers. Shelve him if he is not comfortable and let Murali take over. I think attack in the best defence and strategizing the 50 overs should be of paramount importance.

    Now going back to the all-rounders debate, as I said earlier we are struggling to utilize a battery of batting all-rounders (Sachin, Ganguly, Yuvi and Sehwag) effectively while bowling. In the last year or so, we have struggled to most in our batting (along with bowling and fielding but not as alarming as batting). The top 3, (Sehwag, Sachin and Ganguly) have no clue about the roles. Since Sehwag has jumped in the opening bandwagon, Sachin and Ganguly have been unable to adjust to the changing roles. I am not sure if they even know their roles. Attack or watch Sehwag attack and give him the strike? Sachin and Ganguly, are genuinely attacking batsmen and they have found hard to comprehend their changing roles with the advent of Sehwag. It is clear that Sachin is struggling with his new role. Ganguly is an amazing batsman but has lost his touch because of the role-assignment. Yuvi is wanting to move up the order and so is Kaif. I was impressed with Ganguly when he moved Dhoni up the order and it kinda surprized the Pakis, but I was expecting it to be a one time thing and didn't expect Dhoni to come-in as one down on pitches where the ball didn't come on the bat. Again there seems to be an issue with roles.

    By Anonymous Mayur, at 14:32  

  • Indias bowling is a joke. Our bowlers are averaging 5 runs an over which is same as what Australia's 5th bowlers are averaging. Let me now even go into our backup bowlers.

    By Anonymous n, at 15:03  

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