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Sight Screen

Monday, August 08, 2005

The 5-1-5 option

Interesting column from Harsha, in the Indian Express. A touch dated (I notice this was written on Friday), but the events of Sunday's day-nighter between India and the West Indies have only reinforced Harsha's points, if anything.
The idea behind playing seven batsmen, as the Sri Lankans showed when they first implemented it in 1996, was to give the top three batsmen the freedom to attack knowing that there were four others to stop a slide. But at the core of that set-up was the fact that Aravinda da Silva and Jayasuriya could give them 15 overs in almost every match.

Precisely -- the one key problem the Indian team is facing right now is the lack of reliable fifth bowling options. Ganguly may or may not bowl; Sehwag may or may not be restrictive; Yuvraj may or may not get a few overs. These ifs and buts are bad enough , add to it the fact that the frontline four are not where they can be guaranteed to fire every single time out, and the team is going into games knowing it has a 20-over hole to fill each time; in a game of 50 overs where ten bad overs usually turn the scales, that is way too much of a chance to take.
Since India cannot do that the next best is to play five bowlers and bat Irfan Pathan at number seven. It will empower Pathan, who seems perfectly capable of batting there, and will also send a message to the batsmen that if they want to earn their place, they need to be one of six, not one of seven. After all, it is only a 50-over game and six good batsmen with a bit of help from seven and eight should be good enough for a self-respecting team.

Again, precisely -- I would imagine the time has come for the batsmen to lose their safety net. All along, India has insisted on the seven batsmen option because it is not sure of the form of its frontline five. To add additional batting options is a weak-kneed solution; the real one is to pick batsmen in form and equally, to drop those who are not, intangibles like potential and talent be damned. Simply put, you can run a business on the basis of cash in hand -- you cannot, though, build a business plan based on undated IOUs alone.
All of which is why India needs to go in with five regular batsman; with your wicket-keeper being the sixth batsman (and in Dhoni, mercifully, you have one who can bring you runs PLUS provide acceleration in the end overs); and with the first of your bowlers being someone who can bat more than a bit (again, Irfan Pathan is a natural fit).
That gives you room to accomodate five regular bowlers; it provides cover for one of them having an off day; it also gives you more options to rotate your bowlers around (for instance, if Zaheer is not firing in the early overs, you don't need to persist with him; you switch to your third seam option at once, and bring Zaheer back later with the older ball).
The solution is obvious, and simple. The only reason it is not being implemented is because the batsmen want pampering; the time to end that mindset, and for the team management to tell the batsmen they are responsible for performance, and that there are no more reserved seats in the side, has come.
Be interesting, from that point of view, to see what lineup India decides on for the final. My preferred one -- and this is being picked under the constraints of the selected 14, mind -- would be Sehwag, Saurav, Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif, Dhoni, Yadav, Pathan, Bajji, Balaji and Nehra, in that order. (The omissions are Laxman, who is too iffy to risk, and Zaheer, who is too off color to warrant the new ball berth he now shares with Pathan; the plus is Yadav slotting into a position from where he is expected to provide quick runs, but also bowl 10 overs of seam-up medium pace -- which means you have 50 regular overs, PLUS Saurav, Yuvraj and Sewhag for emergencies).

30 Comments:

  • Prem,

    any reasons on why you prefer bajji to kumble in your 11?

    By Blogger dna, at 12:22  

  • I would select the following:

    Ganguly
    Dhoni
    Dravid
    Yuvraj (can't drop him after the century)
    Kaif (similar reason)
    Raina
    JP Yadav
    Pathan
    Harbhajan
    Kumble
    Balaji

    By Blogger Salman's Shirt, at 12:29  

  • Prem,

    Why would you like to leave Kumble out after his yesterday's performance? And how can you choose Yadav whom we've not seen and who has not played a single match this season?

    By Blogger Chandan, at 12:31  

  • I meant to add the following comments to my previous post:

    1. Sehwag does not deserve a place based on his performance so far. Period. I don't care for potential or his past heroics.

    2. I am also tempted to drop Ganguly and take Rao instead. But that would leave the team too inexperienced.

    3. Laxman does not find a place for obvious reasons: not in form with the bat, and not good on the field.

    4. I'm afraid that now that Yuvraj and Kaif have played one game well, they're going to rest on their laurels for another 12 more games where they contribute a few runs here and there. If these guys don't take responsibility in the next few games they've got to be dumped. Forever. We need consistent performers, not ones who do very well once every 10-15 games. Same goes for Sehwag.

    By Blogger Salman's Shirt, at 12:35  

  • Prem: Sometime last week or so you were soliciting inputs from all of us on our preferred team. For the very same reasons Harsha and You articulated, I suggested a 5 batsmen + Keeper + 5 bowler team. I even suggested to try this out as an 'experiment' given that's how the team management is viewing this series. But, the posts on this blog and if I remember right, even your views were for a 7-4 combo (with Raina in the team). Wondering what's changed your views on team composition.

    Note - not accusuing you or anyone else of a flip-flop, but just curious.

    By Blogger saum, at 12:35  

  • BTW - Glad that you are recovered and back to the blog world! :)

    By Blogger saum, at 12:37  

  • HI prem,

    good morning.
    i dont think dravid will left kumble out.he may play instead of balaji.JPY should definitely come for VVS if they dare,but i'm afraid VVS will get one more chance(as happened in past for finals).

    AND question for u if this team loses final will u say they choked?? rem they strugglinh from day 1 so if team which is not in good form are very likely to lose.(reg 12/13 tag,for sure they were not on top all 12 times when they lost so is it just lost or 'chokers'?)

    By Blogger MAHER, at 12:37  

  • Sehwag has gone through similar phase in the beg of last season, i don't think he is in any hole and u don't switch OFF and ON those kind of players.

    By Blogger MAHER, at 12:40  

  • Prem, nice to see you back in (relative) good health. And I agree that India is not able to plug the 4th-5th bowler gap due to simple fact that we are not able to plug the hole. So time to try regular fifth bowler in JP (or Kumble in case form and experience is an issue...and here experience is not in name sake like Lax but an experienced player who seems in nick)

    But I strongly disgree with the reasons given by you for switch to 7 batsmen strategy in the first place. Here is what you say, and my comments in between.
    **All along, India has insisted on the seven batsmen option because it is not sure of the form of its frontline five.** - not true. India had gone with seven batsmen because we could not find an allrounder, and we(all ODI teams in the world) were going with 7 people who can be match-winners with the bat. Even mighty Aus tried to make an allrounder of Symonds (more of a bat, up-and-down 'pressure' bowler), Moody and the likes. In the long run that seems to have given better results to all teams, and India could afford it due to bowling of sachin, gang, sehwag, yuv, mongia. Now that luxury gone, we need 5 bowlers. But I would still say that we need to remember the WC formula - each person should have 2 skills. This strategy has nothing to do with form of frontline batsmen. If you say 'what 6 batsmen can't do, 7th wont do' then firstly its wrong..sometimes you do get winning knock from 7th batsmen...and then there is this convoluted extrapolation 'what 5 batsmen cant do, 6th wont do!!!!'

    **To add additional batting options is a weak-kneed solution;** - All good ODI teams in the world play with 7 match winning batsmen. Weak-kneed or not, this is the demand of the current ODI structure.

    **the real one is to pick batsmen in form and equally, to drop those who are not, intangibles like potential and talent be damned.** - really ?? You pick and drop based on form ? And form is what, runs scored in last x innings ? Or the way batsmen looks in the crease (irrespective of runs) ? E.g. Hayden should be dropped or not ? yuv looked pretty well in the crease in SL match (no singles, but most hits in the middle of the bat). Point being, this form and potential thing is quite vague. Captain/management need to back their 'instincts' also to some extent.

    **Simply put, you can run a business on the basis of cash in hand -- you cannot, though, build a business plan based on undated IOUs alone.** - sure not IOUs alone, but a decent mix of IOUs with cash in hand is the mark of good business. If any big business started saying 'no I sell only in return for cash in hand' they wouldnt stay big for long

    ..but as I said in the beginning, I agree with going with 5 bowlers, simply because our backup is running thin. But the 7 match-winning batsmen strategy is great, and the long term future. We need to get it right, either through developing an allrounder in JP, Pathan etc or getting sachin, gang etc back into bowling form.

    By Blogger worma, at 12:56  

  • Prem:

    I love you man. You are freaking funny. You write a long piece on why we should have 5 genuine bowlers and then pick a side with 4 when rubber hits the road.

    Amazing!

    Let's be honest. We need five bowlers and on merit they are:
    Pathan, Nehra, Kumble, Bhajji and Balaji/Zaheer (depending on which side of the bed these individuals get up on that day!).
    ..and Ganguly does not deserve his place in the team if you want 5 best available batsmen.

    So the best available IDEAL team TODAY is..

    Sehwag
    Kaif
    Dravid
    Yuvraj
    Raina/Venugopal
    --
    Dhoni
    --
    Pathan
    Nehra
    Kumble
    Bhajji
    Zaheer

    The only acceptable non-ideality (given Ganguly's stature and Dalmiya link - Dalmiya cannot piss off Ganguly as he has to survive in Kolkata and hobnob in the rarefied "society" there) would be Ganguly replacing Raina/Venugopal .. and come to think of it , it is really not that bad a non-idealilty if Gangs can bowl. He should not OPEN with the bat though.

    Just my $0.02

    Take care

    By Blogger losing now, at 12:57  

  • Abhay, you said 5 best available batsmen. How do you know Raina/Rao are better than Ganguly ? Based on what you have seen of them...or again potential/talent etc coming into picture ?

    By Blogger worma, at 13:02  

  • My Pick -

    Sehwag - Last chance to him

    Ganguly - If he is not fit, get in Raina and make Yuvraj open

    Dravid
    Yuvraj
    Kaif

    Yadav - for the points u mentioned. I am assuming that he is good based on your judgement.

    Dhoni
    Pathan
    Kumble
    Bajji
    Balaji

    12th Man Raina

    By Blogger @mit, at 13:04  

  • abhay:
    if i read it right, i believe prem is referring to yadav as a bowler primarily, who can also bat.

    By Blogger dna, at 13:10  

  • worma:
    Good point. Only one thing makes me pick raina/Rao over Ganguly. Ganguly's glaring weakness against the short stuff. I think he is so past his prime and the news is so "out there" that if i were the rival captain - i would just keep bowling to him rising deliveries at chest height and put a short leg and a short fine leg. He will not survive more than 10 deliveries. Rao(more than Raina)/Raina, based on what i have heard, do not have any such glaring negative. I know we are trying to pick the best among sub-optimal choices here..but that is what i think. also, i think it is time we start phasing out Ganguly, VVS and Kumble ..from the indian team from WC'07 standpoint. They will not be in the WC'07 team. The sooner we do the better.
    Hope the "logic" makes some sense. it is a tough choice .. this last batting position.
    Take care

    By Blogger losing now, at 13:12  

  • Ooops... need to make a clarification. I picked Bajji over Kumble on two counts:

    1. If -- and this is a huge if; I can't see what the pitch is like, not being there -- the pitch is identical to the one on which yesterday's game was played, I suspect the off spinner will get more out of it than Kumble. The Lankans know Kumble, and will play him as a bowler who bowls straight and accurate. (By the same token, I thought on the Dambulla pitches, Kumble was a must-pick; knowing what he does is one thing, coping with it over ten overs on a track where the ball keeps low is something else again. Here, the ball is bouncing fairly evenly, and coming on quite nicely to the bat, not conditions I would think Kumble becomes a must-pick in).

    2. As Saum pointed out, earlier in the tournament I had suggested what the team management may be thinking when going in for the 7-4 option, and why that may not be a bad thing. Suggesting 5-1-5 now is not a flip flop of John Kerry proportions, though :-)

    The thing is, the earlier phase of the tournament needed to be used for experimentation, given new personnel, new coach, new captain. But over the four games India has played, I would think enough data points have emerged to make up your mind about some key elements to the overall gameplan -- and the weakness of the bowling department is clearly the foremost (yesterday made twice in two games we let a team get away after being six down for very little, and that is a scary sign).

    So... experimentation still hasn't provided *some* answers (For instance, is Raina or Rao worth a longer stint in the XI? Is Sehwag-Saurav the best opening combo we can put on the park just now? Is Nehra or Balaji the right opening partner for Pathan?... there are others, too).

    But it *has* indicated a need for a strategic shift in team composition, hence my post on those lines

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 13:12  

  • @mit.........

    so u think currently u have better options available then sehwag??

    By Blogger MAHER, at 13:15  

  • Abhay: Um... sorry, my bad, I think. I had all along been thinking JP Yadav is a regular medium pace bowler, who also happens to bat a bit more than usefully. Could be why I mentioned in that post that he is one of five bowlers bowling ten apiece. :-)

    Incidentally -- and this is a general response to some of the posts here -- Sehwag's form, Saurav's utility and much else can be questioned, but when picking the side I did, I went with one basic problem, and one basic thought: First, that I can pick only from the available 15 and second, that it is the final coming up, so you *would* tend to give *some* weightage at least for experience (on the lines of Yuvraj being picked for the do or die game Sunday, for instance).

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 13:16  

  • dna:
    I think he was making a case for 5 genuine bowlers.. not 4 genuine + 1 "primarily" a bowler who can bat. Not sure how much JP is primarily a bowler.
    Take care

    By Blogger losing now, at 13:16  

  • And with that, off for a bit... have to work. Back here later in my day

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 13:16  

  • prem:
    Hey, your posting problem is fixed. Welcome back to the posts.
    What happened dude?
    Take care

    By Blogger losing now, at 13:21  

  • Add Yadav to the bowling department and problems solved? You got to be kidding!

    A statistics link off CricInfo reveals the truth in why India are so lowly placed in ODIs: the average runs conceded per over by even the "regular" Indian bowlers is worse than even that of Zimbabwe and West Indies, and equal to that of Bangladesh. The difference between the runs conceded per over by the regulars and part timers is not exceptional at all when compared to other teams. Hence, the team is always loaded with batsmen. If you select a 5th bowler in the mix, are the runs conceded per over for these regular bowlers going to decrease?

    Fundamentally, India's showing is not going to improve until their bowlers develop some consistency and predictability. Even in this meaningless tournament, Harbhajan and Zaheer have shown phases of utter listlessness and been milked. Pathan is back after a wretched series. Nehra is predictable and brilliant in spurts. Kumble looks good, but I wonder if he can ever completely overcome the demons in his mind concerning his track record in Lanka. Balaji has been expensive throughout his OD career.

    India have selected their best bowlers: there isn't any controversy about it, unlike the batsmen. Sadly, as a whole, the bowlers are simply not good enough compared to other teams. The batting is not great enough to mask this major deficiency.

    By Blogger ManX, at 13:35  

  • manx.
    u r right.do we have any bowler who will once in while take atleast 4 wkts and change complexion of game??? there is big *NO*.same theory do we have batters who can chase any score?? i guess there should be yes b'ze they have done it.instead of just shuffling zahir,balaji,nehra on each tour one of them should be droped completely and have a look at one new bowler per tour.agarkar has been over criticised for his waywardness compared to other three(who r cons giving away runs) he atleast takes wickets.

    By Blogger MAHER, at 13:57  

  • Manx:
    Fabulous point. You absolutely hit it on the nail. Great insight man!

    We get so enamored by "relative" strengths when at an absolute level we just do not have world-class (good and consistent) bowling. It is a crying shame and i am sure we have discussed the reasons (flat home pitches, "hero status" given to batsmen vs bowlers etc etc) ad nauseum. I think in most of the sports - cricket included - good defense wins championships. Look at our past successes - they were always (except for the Natwest win) due to good bowling. Even in WC'03 we won when our bowling became consistent.

    So how do we solve the problem in the short term ie tomorrow's final. I think the answer is not to make a critical weakness more weak by reducing the bowlers from 5 to 4.

    Great point though.. i hope GC is reading this.

    Take care

    By Blogger losing now, at 14:14  

  • It will be nice to have Kumble for Balaji. Simple because of slow pitches and we have 3rd medium pacer in Yadhav

    By Blogger Karthek, at 14:25  

  • Abhay,
    Can you exactly pinpoint when the opposition figured out that Ganguly has shortcomings against rising deliveries? After he scored 3k runs, 5k runs, 8k...? Also, if you believe that you need just 10 deliveries to send Ganguly back to pavilion, do you really believe that the Aussies lost all their plots in the Brisbane test till Ganguly reached 144? Now please don't tell me Ganguly's problem against short ball was discovered after that innings.

    By Blogger Jai, at 15:47  

  • A couple of comments:

    1. This Indian Oil cup does not carry much weight -- neither SL nor India have much to lose in this one-game final. SL's track record in finals at home is stellar. India's performance is at the opposite pole. If SL wins, no surprise. If India wins, there won't be much panic in the SL camp (having beaten India twice in the main round), and every Indian will still maintain that a lot of work remains.

    Looking ahead, I am scratching my head about India's strategy after this tournament -- with the super sub concept looming large. Recollect that the super sub has to be named ahead of the toss -- but this logically, becomes an easy task for India. Always name 6 batsmen (inclding Dhoni) and 5 regular bowlers, with an extra batsman as the super sub. The bowlers are Zaheer, Pathan, Balaji, Nehra + 1 spinner on faster tracks and 3 pacers + Harbhajan and Kumble on more spin friendly tracks. If India bowls, then 5 regular bowlers play and the weakest batsman (Nehra) is substututed out with the super sub. If India bats, and struggles to a point that a clear need for a 7th batsman arises, then decide which bowler to drop in order to post a more competitive total and take the chances with bowling a regular bowler short.

    While this strategy can hold for pretty much any team, it allows India to continue to work without a quality all rounder. This means that experimenting with JP Yadav at this stage is simply not worth it. If 5 regular bowlers and the part-timers can't stem an onslaught, no other Indian is going to help!

    2. Selection Issues: for a while now, I've felt that the team is mostly correct for one-dayers. Yuvraj and Kaif are truly among the best India has got, even though they need to be more consistent.

    For tests, the management needs to step up and foster a meritocracy for its own good. Ganguly with an average in the low 40s has to go and now is a good time. He can be made ODI captain and concentrate on it full-time -- and that won't be a slight on him. Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman are certain (Laxman is far from being done in tests: he is still a class act). That leaves two slots, including one for an opener. It has been clear for a while, looking at stats and performances against better bowling line-ups that Dheeraj Subhash Jadhav has earned the opening slot. He is better than both Gambhir and Dhawan. (On a related note, I don't know what merits Raina's selection. Yeah, yeah, yeah: stats are not everything). The other remaining position should probably go to YV Rao or Kaif. Then at least India will have the best possible team on the field. Lets see what the astute Chappell settles for.

    By Blogger ManX, at 16:34  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 17:35  

  • Hi Prem,

    The side you picked looks good except for 2 points.

    The first point is blooding a youngster (though he is quite old to be called a youngster) like JP Yadav. If you all remember that the last couple of game he played, he was very expensive. He is definitely a quality player and deserves a chance to cool down his nerves but finals is not the place for that. If you look at it closely, India went with the same combination that was a characteristic of the John Wright era. 7 batsmen with the very same lineup where Laxman was replaced by SRT. This clearly means that India just stopped experimenting in the face of a semi-final. Trying out Kumble was a very low risk especially it was against the inexperienced Windies and Bhajji was pretty lack-luster against the Lankans. Blooding someone like JPY is not a good move especially in the finals because his moral would take a beating if he gets swatted around and I am pretty sure the Lankans would go for that atleast in the initial few overs when he is going to be nervy. I would not recommend pitching him in.

    Secondly, the debate about the combination of the batsmen and bowlers, whether it should be 5-1-5 or 6-1-4. I personally feel, and I have mentioned it a lot in my previous posts that 5-1-5 is just not an option for 2 reasons. Firstly, it leads to a very long tail which we cannot afford in this batsmen friendly modern day cricket and secondly I don't understand the reason for not having a safety net for the batsmen but having a safety net for the bowlers. Using your logic for 5 bowlers, why cannot we have 4 bowlers so that the bowlers will realize that their place is under a threat and they better perform. Why does it applies to only the batsmen? Now you mentioned that in the last few ODIs Indian bowling has let down much more than batting then why would it not be reversed if we go with 5-1-5 where the batsmen struggle to reach a respectable total? You mentioned the scenario that what if one of the frontline bowlers got pelted, then the same scenario could be applied to the batsmen; what if we have a collapse like the one against the Windies and Dhoni joined YS/MK with virtually 4 wickets down?

    Prem, I think that this is a problem where people are not doing their jobs well. It is not about providing a safety net to anyone, but to make sure everyone does their job. Look at any team in the world right now, they go with 6-1-4 combination. That is what the game demands. The batsmen have to play attacking shots and they are more likely to get out. Again, as I mentioned on my previous posts, we need to develop someone like Symonds, a Dilshan, a Clarke, a Solanki, a Vaughan or even a Greame Smith. It is just a matter of containment and GC needs to sit down and come up with a strategy. If you look at the team you would realize that India has so many options to fall back on like SG, VS, SRT, YS and even RD. It is just a matter of putting the ball in the right place and finally it just a matter of using your resources wisely and smartly.

    By Blogger Mayur, at 18:41  

  • Need to make the following points about our bowling:
    1) As far as our bowling is concerned, we have 3 decent ODI bowlers in Pathan, Khan, and Bhajji. Barring sudden loss of form or injuries (which hit Khan and Bhajji in 04), these 3 will definitely be in the starting eleven for the WC.
    2) Australia gets away with playing 4 regular bowlers because it has MCGRATH, LEE, GILLESPIE(all 3 are good ODI bowlers) and Hogg (who is in the same class as the main Indian bowlers) + Symonds (who is in the class of sachin, sehwag et all in bowling).
    3) India needs to find 2 more decent ODI bowlers to win consistently in ODIS. As of now, the team management seems to think that Nehra is good enough to be our 4th decent ODI bowler (i really hope that he stays fit for the whole season as he has shown glimpses of his potential only to get injured at the wrong time).
    The 5th bowler is a real problem for India. For me, JP Yadav is the leading candidate for this slot simply becuase he was fantastic in domestics last season and seems to done a lot of work on his bowling. India needs to forget about winning this final, and focus on solving its 5th bowler problem. So, RD and GC must bite the bullet and get rid of a batsman and give Yadav the chances to prove himself.

    By Blogger AA, at 19:58  

  • India has serious problems with their batting in ODIs. In this tournament, theye playing 3 players, who should not be in the starting lineup for ODIs - Sehwag Ganguly, Laxman.
    - Sehwag after a great start to his ODI career as an opener has just failed to maintain consistency in his batting. He has gone from good in 02 to below par in 03 to poor in 04. I for one would opt for Dhoni opening with SRT if Sehwag does not pull up his socks.
    - Ganguly is past his prime as a batsman and does not even deserve to be in the squad of 15 based on his performances.
    - Laxman in my mind is a good backup in the sense that he is not good enough to perform consistently in the starting 11 but will put up decent numbers as a backup.

    My lineup for the final would be:
    1. Sehwag
    2. Laxman
    3. Dhoni
    4. Dravid
    5. Yuvraj
    6. Kaif
    7. Yadav
    8. Pathan
    9. Bhajji
    10. Khan
    11. Nehra
    - Kumble and Ganguly are both past their prime in ODIs and have nothing but been mediocre for the team in ODIS if u take into account their record in since 2000.
    - Balaji will be hammered by Lankan batsmen big time if he is picked. The guy's ER is aroung 5.4 in ODIS, worse than Agarkar. He needs to learn how to bowl in ODIs and should not be picked in the squad for ODIs.
    - The new guys , Rao and Raina, simply didn't get enough chances to prove themselves and are anyways jut speaiclaist batters who turn their arm over and do not offer much in terms of what the team needs right now.

    By Blogger AA, at 20:22  

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