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Sight Screen

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Arjuna's arrows

The reports of yesterday's game you guys have already read... here's a look at the columns and general articles that take a broader view, starting with Arjuna Ranatunga.
The former Lankan skipper points fingers at the obvious flaws, on both sides (Bad fielding by the Indians, Sehwag's impetuosity against Vaas, Sri Lanka's team selection which, he says, was a bit less than perfect). And then he attacks the 5-1-5 formula India tried out in the final:
Somehow I remain skeptical about the five frontline bowlers theory. Do we have an example in world cricket where five specialist bowlers have mattered in one-day context? Even Australia restricts itself to four quality bowlers. India looked for thoroughbreds when multidimensional cricketers are the call of one-day cricket. The likes of Arnold and Dilshan, Brad Hogg and Ashley Giles, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi are able to don different hats as required in the fluid world of one-day cricket.
Somehow, I am not a fan of the 'precedent is against it' argument. There was no precedent for opening with a spinner till Martin Crowe tried it; no real precedent for launching a flat out assault in the opening overs till Crowe first tried it (with Mark Greatbatch) and Sri Lanka institutionalized it as a winning strategy (with Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana)... Hey, people lived in caves till someone thought of a house.
That multi-dimensional cricketers are the key to building good ODI squads is not open to dispute -- the question though is does India have any? Is there a player who will give us 6-8 good overs, and 30-40 good runs, on a regular basis? If yes, let's work on unearthing him (or, in cases where we spot potential, as for instance with Irfan Pathan), to develop it.
But if not -- or not yet -- then it seems a bit pointless to hang on to dogma ('I know of no instance...') at the expense of sense. And in passing, I would imagine the course of the game, and its result, is indicative of many things -- but the feasibility or otherwise of the 5-1-5 formula is not one of them.
For instance, quickly consider this: In the 8th over, Sri Lanka were 46/2. In the 9th, Jayasuriya, then batting 19, was dropped. At the end of that over, Lanka was 51/2 where it should have been 46-or-so/3.
Jayasuriya went on to add another 48 runs to his score; he helped take the score to 122 in the 26th over before getting out (which qualifies as the heck of a platform given the conditions).
But the runs he added after the let off is only half the story. India's fifth bowler on the day was Anil Kumble (It's a whole other question whether he should have been picked -- personally, I thought not, not against Sri Lanka, not on that pitch, which was the point I made the day prior to the game -- and that underlines one other aspect of this 5-1-5 business, namely, for the formula to work, it is imperative you pick the right five). Thanks to the let off, Sanath -- who has historically played Anil with ease -- was around when that fifth bowler was introduced. He faced 16 deliveries of Anil's... and scored 19 runs, with 5 singles, a two, and three fours (that is 1/3rd of his total number of boundaries, by the way). In the process, he ensured that Anil never got to settle down. (In passing, Anil gave away 64 runs -- of which 47 were scored by two batsmen, Sanath and Mahela (28 off 28 balls faced), both of whom were let off).
Which rounds off my point -- that the game yesterday proved a lot of things, but it did not prove, or disprove, the 5-1-5 theory.


  • Isn't it time to blood new spinners or don't we have anyone waiting in the wings.
    Don't let me hear again that Kumble is a world class spinner.. You need to take wickets in all conditions and away before you can be considered one.
    Harbhajan too didn't redeem himself. He needs to be consistent.
    GC sure has his plate full....

    By Blogger Sunny, at 10:46  

  • if the 5-1-5 formula has to work for india we have to start taking a few hard decisions. we cant afford to carry excess baggage in the lineup in the form of out of form players. but then again the ones we have waiting in the wings dont inspire too much confidence.

    By Blogger JD, at 10:49  

  • and i agree with sunny about our "world class" spinners; they cant pick and choose which day to perform and have to perform in all conditions; the same goes to the faster men too. its been a ritual of sorts for zaheer to spray the ball around in the first over of a final

    By Blogger JD, at 10:52  

  • Hi Prem,
    Don't you think it will be a good idea to rest the seniors and frontline bowlers for the Zim tests and give the fringe players a chance to play some test cricket against very weak opposition? Perhaps Kaif can lead a side that includes Yuvraj and Sehwag from the current squad, but resting most others ahead of more important games against SL, Eng, PAK and WI? Maybe the big guns can only play the ODIs against NZ. I don't this won't happen and soon we'll be hailing all sorts of broken records in the test matches.

    By Blogger SB, at 11:14  

  • Funny how you begin by saying you're not a fan of believing in precedents and later rely on a precedent (That Jayasurya has historically played Anil well) to try and prove your point that Anil's selection was wrong.

    I agree one game cannot prove or disprove the 5-1-5 theory. However, any statistical discipline to a certain extent relies on Heuristics and well you do want to opt for a process / strategy thats proven to be more successful in the past so far as your constraints allow this. And the fact is that in the post Kapil / Prabhakar era we've had most success in ODIs playing six batsman. Why then, in the final of a tournament attempt such a risky proposition ? And if you're intent on taking a risk why not mitigate it by playing JP Yaday rather than five pure bowlers or was JP not played since thats an even greater risk ? and no IP is not an all-rounder yet.

    Somehow, I don't really see what you're driving at, this once.

    As a passing thought, let the professionals do their jobs. We've a team in place GC and co. Let them worry about solving this, they're the experts, have the liberty to work full time on this (something none of us do) and will get it right more than any of us would. I think we need to give them a break for a while and stop over-analyzing this.

    By Blogger Anurag, at 11:14  

  • 1. One match is too little to prove or disapprove 5-1-5 theory as far as India is concerned.

    2. you all tell me when was the last time a team won a world cup or a major championship with only four bowlers?

    3. Given our quality of bowling, we need five bowlers and 1-2 backup bowlers like Sachin or 4 good bowlers and 2 all arounders. Our bowlers are not Roberts, holding, Croft and Garner. Given the quality of bowlers that currently have, we can never win a major championship with 4 bowlers. that is why we lost 90% of the finals. Winning a battle is different from winning the war. India always won a few battles with its batting but always lost the war.

    4. hitting over the top and hitting in the initial overs was first started by Krish Srikkanth and perfected by others. Similarly he was the first one to use a pinch hitter...and use them up in the order.

    By Blogger J, at 12:22  

  • sb: I would hope India does pick a lot of fringe players for the Zimbabwe tour, rather than pick the regulars and give them an opportunity to inflate their averages while proving nothing more than that Zimbabwe is struggling just now.

    Anurag: I guess I should have elaborated on the 'precedent' bit.
    To say 'A score of 450 has never been chased' or 'a team has never gone in with 5 bowlers' and such is the sort of precedent I was referring to.
    To say, however, that a particular batsman has the nous, and the skill, to play a particular bowler is mere observation, surely -- and not used in the nature of precedent? Brian Lara has the skill set to play Muralitharan better than most others in the business -- which is a fact you would take into account when you are working through strategy for a Windies-SL game, no? But to say 'five bowlers have never been used' does not translate into 'five bowlers can never be used successfully'... to give you a for instance, an attack comprised entirely of fast bowlers was not used consistently, and successfully -- till Clive Lloyd came along and said heck, we have match winning fast bowlers, we don't need to pick a spinner just because history and precedent say we do.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:35  

  • Anurag: Also, I am not trying to carve 5 bowlers on stone. I was merely making the point that the ideal could be five batsmen (of whom at least two can bowl), one quality all rounder (who merits a place for batting OR bowling skills), one good wicket keeper batsman, who again qualifies as an all rounder, and four regular bowlers in form.
    Thing is, I can't seem to see that all rounder... and I was questioning the merit of picking anyone who can either swing a bat or bowl with an approximation of a decent action, and calling him an all rounder. If we have something, we use it; if we do not, we figure out other solutions, is the subtext of my argument.
    As to the other, totally true -- no point analyzing any of this when you have people appointed to do just that; but by the same token, there would be no point to any of us discussing anything game related at all, no? Game over, forget it, move on, watch the next one if you want to, or see what's on HBO.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:39  

  • Arnold and Dilshan???? He must be joking...

    The only place where these two can succeed is on SL pitches.

    By Blogger Kannan, at 13:15  

  • While on Lanka's record home and away, we should also look at India's recent home/away record in ODIs. At home off the last 35 matches, India has won 14 and lost 20!! We have lost 4 vs WI, 2 vs Zim, 3 vs Eng, 4 vs Pak, 5 vs Aus. Against this, Lanka has won 26 and lost 7 of their last 35 matches at home. They havent lost more than one match to any single country except Australia. And even vs Australia, their record is 3 wins and 3 losses. And looking at the away records, india has lost 20 out of 35, while winning 13. Sri Lanka has won 16 and lost 18 out of 35. Its not that Lanka are only winners at home. India cant win eith at home or away, while Sri Lanka, while being tigers at home are better than India while playing away.

    By Blogger Tiger, at 14:08  

  • Arjuna's comments have been pretty accurate. We are the worst fielding side in the world. Ganguly, Nehra, Kumble, Laxman are terrible fielders. Dravid, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Sehwag are average fielders. Pathan and Rao are decent. Only Yuvrak, Kaif and Raina are good fielders.

    Also, his advice to Sehwag to bat in a carefree mode seems to have been spot on. I know you disagreed with that, saying that he needs to bat in a Test match mode. But, the way he played it was no Test match mode. He dominated the bowling from ball one. It was an incredible knock.

    By Blogger nish_the_dish, at 14:20  

  • Prem...on the Zim tour thing...again....taking a little from Rajaraman's article..I would say we experiment a little less....especially in the test matches. We have a more or less settled test match side....which has lost its bearings only slightly in the last season. Give them this chance to get back into top rhythm. Would be useful to get some big victories against Zim and get confidence going (yes I do think it will help the confidence even against this zim side)....get the rust out of Laxman's test form....get time in middle for the testmatch version of Yuv and/or Kaif....give one more chance to Gambhir to get a big test innings and prove he can do big....and yes let Sehwag break a few records ;-)

    And just a case in point, even Nz have full team there, Eng tried full team against b'desh to get into groove....nice to have a winning thing going.

    By Blogger worma, at 14:42  

  • The other way to look at the 5 bowlers formula is this way: India with 5 genuine first-class bowlers (who will be our first choices in any match) gave away a score of 281 (with dropped catches). Imagine instead of Kumble, Sehwag had bowled...The score would have been somewhere in 320s.

    By Blogger madhugr, at 01:29  

  • Anurag,

    We did play six batsmen.
    1. Virender Sehwag
    2. Sauruv Ganguly
    3. Rahul Dravid
    4. Yuvraj Singh
    5. Mohammed Kaif
    6. Dhoni (He cant be in for his keeping can he?)

    I think it is better for us to go for thouroughbreds in the bowling departments.

    By Blogger Rishi Gajria, at 02:42  

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