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Sight Screen

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

'Total cricket' -- Open Thread

It's a pretty quiet day -- newspapers back home are likely understaffed, thanks to the holiday. Suits me -- the blog can do with a quiet day too. :-)
In the meantime, here's something I'd love to hear your views on. Ayanjit Sen, writing for BBC International, looks at India's experimentation phase.
Speaking about the changes in the batting order, Indian captain Dravid, said: "The important thing is that we have put different people in different positions, and they have all responded magnificently, which gives us a lot of options.
"The idea is to be flexible in your thinking and approach, so that we can go forward, but for that we must have the people who can do different roles, and fortunately we have the personnel now."
These changes in the batting order suggest that India is keen to invest in a form of 'total cricket', especially looking forward to the 2007 World Cup.

As always, there is some criticism as well (though it seems muted for now -- again, understandable since the results are coming in). One such critic, Chetan Chauhan, reckons such changes could make the 'specialist batsman' a threatened species:
"If such changes are made constantly, then what is the need for choosing a specialist batsman? You can have anybody batting and bowling at any number they want," said Chauhan.

Forget for now such things as results; if you were to think purely of this mindset -- getting people to go up and down the order or, to borrow from Johann Cryuff, play 'total cricket' -- would you say it was a good thing? Why -- or why not?


  • chauhan's complaints hold no water. what is wrong with people playing and being capable of playing different positions. if we dont have people of caliber how do you expect a 7,8,9 or a 10 to bat when needed. gone are the days when a chandra coming in as good as getting in the boundary to field. wicket keepers like kirmani and more are no longer acceptable we need gilchrist. game has changed and people like chauhan needs to change and adjust to the new era of the game

    By Blogger tombaan, at 10:53  

  • I'm all for 'total cricket', and for obvious reasons. It forces people to think holistically. It forces people to become complete cricketers. It forces people to prepare better for eventualities. It forces people to think. In fact, the last reason itself is, in my opinion, a good enough one to continue the march towards total cricket. Total cricket is for thinkers and Indian cricket needs more of them: thinkers.

    By Blogger √úbermaniam, at 10:55  

  • Prema:

    What's wrong with "Total Cricket"? Why do we need specialist batsmen if allrounders can do the job? An ODI is a different animal. Except for the opening slots, any player can take any slot depending on the situation in a match. If a captain has options he should be able to promote/demote batsmen. Apart from the obvious advantages it also makes the opposition think and they could make a bad move. So I'm all for it.

    By Blogger hjrsingh, at 11:00  

  • Its new to indian cricket but its a common phemnomenon in corporations. Selecting horses for courses.

    Moreover India has not really done anything different. pathan's potential is well known even when he had made only 10s and 20s. He has been very very compact against best bowlers and it is very natural for him to be fulfiling any req spot. Its all about being a good batsmen. like SRT, RD, Pathan, Dhoni can bat at any situation. In ODI's it will always be like this and its good for the game too. New things being tried, new surprizes being thrown. In tests, the concept of specialist batsmen will always be there and probably thats what chetan might be referring to.

    By Blogger J, at 11:00  

  • Chetan Saab, you never played ODIs, and even Test cricket has changed since you retired/sacked.
    So please keep quiet, will ya?

    By Blogger santa_from_NJ, at 11:04  

  • Prem:

    From what I have seen in these 3 matches, GC likes to put those players at # 3 who would otherwise not bat there. IP, JPY and MSD.

    I think the idea is to have some players who can increasee or sustain the speed of scoring during the powerplays, if first wkt falls.

    If you bring in a regular/specialist batsmen when first wkt fall and there are still powerplay overs remaining, the batsman will take some time to settle down, get in the grove and then start scoring (like RD). By that time powerplay overs may be all done.

    However, if you send a non-specialist batsman with a directive that all he has to do is make use of the powerplay overs and then stay as long as he can, he will go out and be as aggresive as he can be (example, IP and MSD).

    Suppose GC sent VR instead of MSD at # 3, do we really believe that VR would have scored like MSD did? And when MSD would have come out to bat, he would have had less overs to bat and a RRR of about 8 to score at.

    That's why, to me, it makes sense to have multiple people ready to bat at any position, just in case the need arises. This give lot of flexibility in case injuries occur, get a new player in and adjust the batting order accordingly. Since you have multiple players for every position, the adjustment will be smooth. But positions like # 3 and 4 are critical. It depends on the match situation to decide whom to send there and also if powerplay overs are remaining or not.

    If PP overs are there and we need to score lot of runs, then it would make sense to send out a pinch-hitter. Normal/specialist batsmen don't make great pinch-hitter; that is my opinion, unless they are SRT, VS or even RD (the way he is scoring now-a-days).

    By Blogger Ruchir Joshi, at 11:10  

  • It is good that the GC-RD think tank is trying out new ideas with the WC in mind. As for total cricket, in ODIs, definitely. We cannot have a batting (or bowling)order set in stone for every match. This is where background planning and good captaincy comes to the fore. This has the added advt in surprising the opposition. and leads to more entertaining cricket for sure. And at least, till a couple of years back, most WI pitches, especially for the ODIs were good for batting (or even too slow). So, playing a lot of games in India and trying out new combinations is the way to go. If a player can assume more than one role (such as IP coming in as pinch hitter or finishing an innings at No 7), it gives them added confidence when performing their main roles.

    I am also for rotation policy (like the Aussies) for a home ODI series with more than 4 matches. And by rotation, I mean giving upcoming player a chance to replace a senior player's role. For eg, I would be really happy if say, SRT is rested and GG takes his place for the next match. There's no point in making GG play in a dead rubber. He'll be at his best only when the series is live (not counting chickens before they are hatched, but we have a good chance to wrap up the series early). And his utility to the team can be best gauged in such situations only.
    With this kind of rotation, players know that they have to perform in the limited chances they get and make a mark. While this might be seen as putting more pressure on the youngster, the best will still come good. Sad for the rest but then they just arent as good as the ones who make it.

    By Blogger Toney, at 11:19  

  • We are confusing the demands of a ODI with those of a test cricket and with the competition in each of theset two segments being what it is, it has become more and more important we appreciate the difference between the two formats of the game. An ODI team needs a line up that is as flexible as the one that india is experimenting right now. The need for specialist bowlers and batsmen are more to the longer version of the game. I think we are finally understanding this suttle difference.

    By Blogger Realms, at 11:24  

  • Ah good, this is the sort of thing I was hoping for. Off to work for a bit -- I know I know, it's Diwali, but I have pages to fill, copy to edit. But will come back in here later, to check out your comments. Take care guys, and happy New Year again

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 11:30  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger indianfansrcrazy, at 11:31  

  • i think so far it is "total cricket" more loosely (may be we haven't seen everthing)..as total football really meant all 10 players (other than the goalie) can play in any position..not sure if that is possible or needed in cricket..then chetan chauhan's points about not needing specialist batsmen are correct to an extent..i think total cricket in the context that we are talking about is possible when the batting up and down the order for all positions (not only # 3) really works based on the situation of the match (rather than deciding to send dhoni the night before only) as well as bowlers..pace, spin and fringe bowlers able to bowl whenever needed..i am not touching fielding here but that begs a question as well..

    By Blogger indianfansrcrazy, at 11:34  

  • with 20 over games coming in it is impossible to have specialist. a purist might turn his nose but times have changed we dont play cricket the way we did in 70s. looking at the result...a batsman like chopra is outt but if he was in the 70s he would another chetan chauhan we have now gambhir and sehwags opening in olden days it was only 7 or 8 who played like this openers do...so game all over has changed.....gavaskar bowling in his time was a comic thing done on last day now we would have sehwag and sachin bowl and not imitate qadir...

    By Blogger tombaan, at 11:38  

  • ODI games on Indian wkts take the bowler out of play. So teams can be much more flexible with the batting order. You won't see Pathan come out at no.3 on a green top vs McGrath/Lee. For that matter, SRT would not be opening that innings either. The specialists would return to their allotted spots.

    By Blogger Vijay, at 11:47  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger indianfansrcrazy, at 11:52  

  • vijay, isn't that true for odi wickets all over the world?? i dont remember green top wicket..other than the nz/india series before the world cup where it was "deliberately" pace friendly..only helped the indian cause in the long term..but, that is a separate issue

    By Blogger indianfansrcrazy, at 11:53  

  • The rotation should have a definite objective. One thing we can do through these 12 matches is try a veriety of things. For example,:
    1) Send multiple people at #3 for slogging.
    2) players who come in to bat after 40 overs (does not matter if 1 wicket down or 5 .. ) something like Lance Klusener would do.
    3) Bowlers who bowl well in the first 20 overs
    4) Bowlers who are good in the final overs.
    5) A combination of the above when we are chasing and defending - for example Dhoni batting at #3 while chasing might be different from him batting at the same position in the first innings.

    Analyze the results and STICK to it. Do not mingle much with it for the next 2 years unless things are drastically going wrong.

    By Blogger nilcritz, at 12:06  

  • well,
    Chetan Chauhan's fabulous "specialist" batsman ODI average of 21 at a strike rate of 50 says it all!

    By Blogger Sahir, at 12:29  

  • Sahir,
    I dont quite agree that only a player with good career stat can provide sound opinion

    By Blogger J, at 12:42  

  • I think we are all getting a little too carried away by Team India's recent success and about RD's "Midas touch" at the moment. Dont get me wrong..Am really happy with the team right now, but this team is certainly some distance before being compared with cryuff's team. Reasons :

    1) We are still to prove ourselves overseas (not the teams fault, they havent had the chance, but still..)

    2) We still lack that little cutting edge in bowling..Yes, HS is bowling very well indeed, but one bowler is just not good enough. So we still are atleast one quality bowler short.

    I really do hope that the present team will nurture IP, or Sreesanth , HS into a lethal combination. I really really do.

    By Blogger Confused Indian Cricket Fan, at 13:21  

  • Total cricket - I would like to give a slightly different definition.

    Total Cricket is not just about a flexible batting line-up...it is also about having ability to do two things VERY well. That is between 1. batting, 2. bowling and 3. Fielding/catching.

    The above is in addition to fitness, running between the wickets, speed etc.

    Btw, that Aussies are already good at playing total cricket except that they do not change their batting line-up too much.

    By Blogger G285, at 13:24  

  • In the final overs Pathan wasn't really varying the pace and also he wasn't using yorker balls. In final overs AA was far better than him. I am not sure JPY is a hourse of long run or not. But definitely would not like him to be replaced by SG. If JPY fails, one extra pace bowler can be included. This is possible as we now have super sub thing which gives more options. For example in the last match we had AA coming at number 11, so definitely we can afford bhajji or See Santh coming at number 11. I mean if JPY is not very promising with his bat then we can replace him by a sole pace bowler. An extra pace bowler will be good looking at the fact that now power play extends to 20 overs. Moreover, we always have optional spin bowlers but optional pace bowlers are not available, so better to have them included in the final 12 of the team

    By Blogger Shivam, at 13:27  

  • g285,
    Isnt NZ a better practitioner of total cricket? They are a pretty good ODI side because of this too. Of course, they face the same problem that SL does. Almost all their 2-d players are medium pacers. So, they have limited effect on drier pitches. SL have part time spinners who struggle on good batting surfaces. The ideal combination of part timers (bowling) should be a mix of both.

    By Blogger Toney, at 13:46  

  • Btw,

    Could someone enilghten me on the status of balaji ? Is he off only because of injury and he just doesnt happen in the scheme of things right now ? The reason i am asking this because when we talk of super sub the first name that comes to my mind is his.

    By Blogger Realms, at 14:24  

  • Balaji is out largely due to fitness reasons as well as the emergence of Sree Santh during the Challenger Trophy. I reckon a few more domestic games (Duleep Trophy) and he will be back in the reckoning, especially for the tests against Sri Lanka. Anybody given any thought to who the second seamer will be in the tests against Sri Lanka? There is a strong possibility Zaheer will not be retained considering Chappell's dislike of his work ethic, along with Zaheer's prolonged pathetic performance in international cricket. Who then? Nehra? What if he's not fit, which is highly likely considering he is yet to play a domestic game since leaving Zimbabwe under the injury cloud. Surely Agarkar will not be considered for Test cricket again? We've already been down that path once too often. Probably 3 contenders, and 2 of them would be debutants if selected-- Balaji, Sree Santh, and VRV Singh. What do you guys think?

    By Blogger Sahir, at 15:11  

  • Let me play Devil's Advocate here.
    No, I don't think Total Cricket is a great idea. This is not a new one. There's been lots of experimentation done by Australia, NZ (in the 92 WC) and SL over the years.
    It might work for a while, especially on pitches where bowlers have no chance whatsoever, there is no semblance of swing, 30000 crazed fans are backing you at full tilt (and flinging epithets on the other guys), and the temperature is 30 degrees.
    But then, I can't think of a single innovative idea that didn't succeed in such circumstances. Vikram Rathore enjoyed success as an opener here. Enough said.
    The reason this form will NOT work in, shall we say, more challenging circumstances, is that if we lay less emphasis on specialization, and keep switching roles and demands on players, when the pressure gets turned on, they don't have some base to fall back on. Players and anyone else would like a comfort zone. Specialization gives you that. Dravid at No.3 in tests knows exactly what his role is. So does SRT at No.4. Those first 78 ODIs when SRT didn't score a century also included an average of 36-odd. This in a position in the batting order where the likes of Bevan averaged in the 60s. Why, because there was NO set position. Sometimes he'd come at 120/4 after 30 overs, other times at 250/6 after 45...still others at 48/5 after 15. Tendulkar is the greatest batsman of our time, even he couldn't figure out what to do when his role was unclear.
    And not that this means anything, but Johan Cryuff never won the World Cup. I know, cheap shot...Couldn't resist :)

    By Blogger W, at 15:35  

  • j,
    "I dont quite agree that only a player with good career stat can provide sound opinion"

    I agree, I was only joking

    By Blogger Sahir, at 16:29  

  • I think total cricket is true for batsmen and fielders and perhaps spinners, not so true for pace bowlers. For example, I would pick Malinga in the SL one-day squad, even though he can't bat, perhaps doesn't have much variety, and can be erratic. The bottom line is he puts fear and indecision in the minds of batsmen, and if you don't have pace bowlers in your team who can do that, you're toast. Replacing a fiery Malinga with a medium-pace allrounder is a wrong decision, IMO.

    And I agree with Srinath. Pathan is now a decent bowler and a handy batsman. Would it be better for Pathan to focus his energies on becoming a good bowler, or to focus his energies on becoming a decent batsman? I think the former.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 17:12  

  • I am fine with experimenting, but I think after that innings, MSD deserves that #3 spot for a while. I mean if he can bat there and score a scintillating 183 after keeping for 50 overs, why can't he be sent there when we are batting first? When we play in England, New Zealand or Australia, we can take a different approach, but in the sub-sontinent, I think MSD should bat at #3 for a while. That way we have a realistic chance of crossing the 400 mark in an ODI game.

    By Blogger Dadagiri, at 19:10  

  • dadgiri,
    I agree that on flat batting tracks without much bounce, Dhoni should be batting at #3. Of course, in order to do that he will have to work that much harder on his fitness.

    By Blogger Sahir, at 19:18  

  • Sahir,
    If we are batting first, he can certainly be sent at #3 regularly. If we are batting second, he still cane be sent at #3 depending on the target. At least the team management should ask him whether he's ready to bat at #3 and let him decide whether he's too tired or can go out there and enjoy !! What I am saying is that for the sake of experiment, I don't want to see Agarkar or Rao coming out at #3 in the next match. Dhoni is the answer IMO in this series and may be against SA also.

    By Blogger Dadagiri, at 19:40  

  • dadagiri,
    I agree. In fact, I would take it one step further and say Dhoni should permanently occupy the #3 slot in the subcontinent and in the West Indies (WC 07). However, should we do this, I feel the supersub ought to be someone that is a hard striker of the cricket ball that can accelerate the score in the final overs, if necessary (filling the role Dhoni has served admirably since the start of this season).

    By Blogger Sahir, at 21:03  

  • There is no right answer to this all the time - if we have 5 Don Bradmans in your team, sure, play them in a fixed order. If you have a Gavaskar or a Shastri in your team, never play him in any role other than that of a opener. He is too ineffective otherwise. If we bring back VVS, he has to play at #3. His usefulness is greatly diminished otherwise. Saurabh should play as a opener. At #3, he is okay, but less effective. At #4 onwards, there isn't much point.

    Basically, you need to change your answer depending on the resources available to you. And today, total cricket looks like an attractive option. For instance, in a purely objective sense, opening with Sachin and Saurabh and using Sehwag for overs #35-50 is a good option. Our sloggers - before the advent of Dhoni and Pathan - weren't very good. I am not sure whether any of them would be a success outside India as a slogger anyway. For Viru home vs abroad is irrelevant. A 50 from #6 is as valuable as a 100 from an opening slot. After Robin Singh was gone, there wasn't anybody who would produce a quickfire 25 anyway.

    By Blogger RV, at 21:38  

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