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Sight Screen

Friday, July 08, 2005

Agenda for change

In his weekly column in the Indian Express, Harsha Bhogle looks at the task(s) ahead for Greg Chappell. Through it runs a thread -- we as a nation are about idol worship, not about the collective; we glorify individual accomplishment and forget that this is a team sport:
That brings us back to Chappell, still finding his feet in India but armed with the spirit of excellence. It is a great weapon to possess. I have no doubt that the first learning he will seek to impart is to make a distinction between winning and setting landmarks; indeed, winning a cricket match must be the only landmark that counts.
Interestingly he told me that he remembers few of his big innings, certainly not all of them, and that his happiest memories are the time he spent with his friends savouring victory.
The Indian mindset, though, is one that glorifies records, unaware of the harm it causes. It needn’t if records are part of the process of playing outstanding cricket but, if they are objectives by themselves, they stand a very real chance of coming in the way of team achievement.

Much of this applies to Sachin Tendulkar; Harsha raises a question that parallels what I've been thinking aloud on this forum:
Chappell is aware that India do not have an all-rounder and, since that species is most difficult to spot, it is very unlikely there will be one before the World Cup. And so he will have to conjure up a cricketer who can function as an all-rounder.
None of India’s bowlers are likely to become good enough to bat at number six or seven in the next 18 months and so he must look at whether one of his batsmen can give him 10 overs in a one-day game and 12-15 regularly in a Test innings. Sehwag could be that person but Tendulkar has the best credentials. But does he do it from number one or from number five?

I'd reckon there is *one* bowler who has the potential to become a good -- as opposed to great -- all-rounder; to wit, Irfan Pathan. I like the way he shapes at the batting crease; I'd reckon a bit more application should help him move from the occasional cameo part, to a full-fledged role at the head of the tail.
But the larger point is well taken -- Tendulkar, in a recalibrated role, could form the key. It is increasingly evident that he needs to slip out of the opener's role in ODIs. With increasing injuries, and the onset of age, it is unrealistic to expect him to be the swashbuckler of say four, five years ago.
If, then, SRT's new style of batting involves more of attritive accumulation, the logical place for him is the middle of the innings, from where he can guide the younger players -- Kaif, Yuvraj, et al -- to the finish line.
There's one other thought I've toyed with for some time now. If you think Tests for a moment, and if you agree that in the longer form of the game, Sachin has increasingly shown a propensity for painstaking innings-building as opposed to his earlier destructive avtaar, how about moving him to the top of the order to pair with Sehwag?
He has the technique to cope with the new ball; he has the nous to rotate strike rapidly and thus keep the early bowlers unsettled; he has the experience to temper Sehwag's barnstorming batting at the other end. And it opens up possibilities in the middle: Sachin, Sehwag, Rahul, Saurav, Laxman, Kaif, Kartick/Dhoni (my pick being Dhoni) make for a batting lineup that, form and fitness being a given, could be pretty hard to match. No?

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