India versus England – gripping, yet flawed

Written by  //  February 28, 2011  //  Sport  //  13 Comments

As narratives go, the tie at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore between India and England was as compelling as any. The sides scored 338 runs each in a match that remained on tenterhooks for much of its duration – especially in the final over in which England needed 14 runs to secure victory – and gave this World Cup its first thriller. But let’s not get carried away in the resonance of the tale – by calling it a great game – and ignore the teams’ respective deficiencies that was, in the first place, responsible for providing the game with the grip that enraptured the viewers. No doubt, the batting from both sides made for a fantastic sight – but the plaudits must be tempered in light of the poor quality of bowling and fielding that was on display.

We watch sport for a variety of reasons and a riveting story is often what we search for. In that sense, this game fulfilled our needs – constantly remaining on a knife-edge. But when you cut through the brilliance – admittedly there was a lot of that, especially from the two centurions, Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Strauss – you are left to grapple with lots of dismal performances in the field. Easy catches were dropped, misfields were aplenty, the lines from the bowlers – barring Tim Bresnan – were wayward and the captaincy and the field settings from both M.S. Dhoni and Strauss lacked verve and imagination. All of this, while contributing heavily to the narrative, certainly did not make for pretty viewing. So to say that the contest was ‘a perfect advertisement’ for the one-day game – which it may well be, considering the general obsession with runs – veils the quality that both teams lacked.

On current form, regardless of their batting prowess, it looks unlikely that either India or England will be in contention towards the end of the tournament. Unlike test-matches, one-day games can, no doubt, be won on the strength, purely, of a team’s batting. But World Cups tend to be different – might in a single department has never been sufficient to lift the trophy. At least England was missing Stuart Broad, who is easily its best limited overs bowler. India had no such excuses. Its bowling – barring a brief yet stirring spell from Zaheer Khan – was uninspired and consistently poor, outdone in its sloppiness only by the fielding. India must, therefore, consider the option of playing five bowlers, a buffer that is necessary on sub-continental pitches for teams lacking sufficient bowling quality – an option that is particularly viable in India’s case, considering the strength of its batting. This would, of course, mean that one of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir or Yusuf Pathan would have to be excluded; not an easy decision by any means. But the exigency of the situation calls for a bold move and in view of the form of Kohli (not to mention his fielding skills), Yuvraj’s usefulness with the ball and Pathan’s undeniable match-winning abilities, it may well have to be Gambhir who makes way.

Gambhir is a fine one-day batsman, whose worth to the team is undeniable. Yet, in a squad filled with as many batting stars as India’s is, it is inevitable that one of them will have to miss out. India could learn from Spain’s football team, which for much of the 2010 World Cup, started without Cesc Fabregas, favouring the more defence minded Sergio Busquets in the interests of team-balance. Winning a World Cup is no easy feat. And it certainly won’t be possible if sentiment is preferred over pragmatism.

About the Author

Suhrith Parthasarathy is a journalist currently living and writing in New York. Suhrith grew up in Chennai, India and studied law at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. He practiced as an attorney for two years before giving up the law for journalism. He is presently studying for his masters at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. You can find him on Twitter (@suhrith) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/suhrithparthasarathy)

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13 Comments on "India versus England – gripping, yet flawed"

  1. Anisha February 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm ·

    Right now the bowling seems so poor that I wonder if they should consider dropping both Gambhir and Kohli and playing a specialist bowler and Raina, who adds another bowling option (and might occasionally field better than he did yesterday). 5 bowlers and 3 part timers – sounds excessive? Probably, but after yesterday’s horror show, I think MS needs all the support that he can get. The worst part about the current set up is that MS has absolutely nobody to turn to if a frontline bowler (or more) fails.

  2. Suhrith February 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm ·

    I get your point. But that may be a tad excessive. As shameful as it is, Dhoni ends up getting Raina in the field, in any case, for either Tendulkar or Sehwag. And Kohli’s form means that he probably cannot be sacrificed.
    Dhoni will probably turn to Ashwin, who he trusts can do the job even in a power-play situation. I am a Chawla believer, but after that showing, Ashwin must be given a chance.
    So many teams have tried using a spinner within the first 3-4 overs and its invariably worked. I was quite surprised, Dhoni didn’t try one early on, even if was going to be only a part-timer. Yuvraj has had a lot of success against Pietersen and it may well have been worth a shout.

  3. Arghya February 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm ·

    Great article Suhrith. Took the words out of my mouth. Barring Strauss and Sachin’s batting, it was a terrible game and no one should shy away from calling it that because of the result. Cricket, or at least certain forms of it are not all about the runs but how one gets them and how one is prevented from getting them and this game was terrible in both these respects on the whole.

    Having said that, yes, Chawla’s inconsistency yesterday was shocking but expected. Ashwin definitely should get an in; as should Nehra. And Zaheer Khan needs to understand that he bowls well when he sledges less. That over apart, I thought he was absolutely shocking yesterday- unimaginative and certainly not the spearhead he’s set himself up to be. And his glaring at batsmen while being hit, as he most famously did in his disastrous first over in the 2003 final, must stop. Someone should tell him it makes him look stupid. As does his current hairdo.

    Though I still fancy India in the semi-finals; and then a little bit of luck and who knows?

  4. Suhrith February 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm ·

    Thanks a lot Arghya. Entirely agree with you on both Zaheer’s bowling and his hairdo. Nehra, I think is still struggling with a sore back, but he should hopefully be fit for the next game. He can be expensive, but he’s certainly a wicket-taking bowler.

    But having said that, I am not quite so optimistic about India making the semifinals. I think it will need all the luck right from the quarter-finals. If it doesn’t top the group, then it will face one of Australia, Sri Lanka or Pakistan, not easy games.

  5. aandthirtyeights March 1, 2011 at 4:59 am ·

    Harbhajan must go. India can’t have ten overs from a frontline bowler who doesn’t get wickets. Gavin Larsen was the last bowler who bowled regularly like that, but his economy rate was nearer to 3 than 4.5. I’d pick Chawla and Ashwin.

    And I agree with you, drop Gambhir and play another bowler – Nehra.

  6. Suhrith March 1, 2011 at 5:43 am ·

    I agree with you on Harbhajan. Ideally he should be removed from the Eleven. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Do you?

  7. Biswa March 1, 2011 at 6:54 am ·

    I get your point, but I won’t change too much with the current team. Remember, this is the same team and the same combination which has done very well over the past few seasons. I never agreed with the Chawla selection, u just can’t pick somebody because he bowls leg spin when the others in your team bowl off spin. Selection should be on quality, not on kind of bowling you do and which arm u use to bowl.

    Anyway adding an extra bowler won’t help much, as the problem is not specialist bowler but a quality bowler and lets face it, we dont have quality bowlers. The only two quality bowlers in the team are Zaheer and Harbhajan. I know u dont agree on Bhajji but he has bowled well lately. It is difficult to bowl on flat indian pitches. Look at what happenned to swann.

    What the team lacked was spark on the field and some unimaginative captaincy from Dhoni. Dhoni allowed the game to roll on, he wasn’t proactive enough and hoped for English batsmen to make mistakes, never forced them to come out of their comfort zone with attacking field setting. I think the moment India scored 338, they thought they had won the game, which led to the lacklustre bowling and fielding performance. The same team will fight hard if they are defending 230.

    As far as changes in the team goes, I will pick Ashwin instead of Chawla, and maybe open the bowling with him. One can’t change too much at this point……. so stick to your strength and hope for the best. Keep scoring 300 plus and hope ur bowling defends it . I strongly feel that the England game was a blessing in disguise and the team will be sharp, intense and focussed in future matches.

    PS: Gambhir is the captain of my super selector team, so i wont drop him :)

  8. Suhrith March 1, 2011 at 9:49 am ·

    Biswa, I agree with you on the complacency aspect. India probably never thought England can chase 338 and they thought turning up and bowling irrespective of any planning would be sufficient. You’re right, this could well act as a wake up call of sorts, and I hope it does. I think what the team lacks – and has lacked for a good 20 years now – is a genuine all-rounder (someone who is quality with both bat and ball and preferably, someone who can bowl medium pace). That would have filled two positions an we wouldn’t have been having this debate on whether to play the extra bowler or the extra batsman. Anyway, I suppose India would have to make do with what it has and irrespective of the team composition, it must show far greater application and verve to win this Cup.

  9. Anirudh Krishnan March 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm ·

    Suhrith, great article. Very thought provoking. But I disagree on 2 issues:
    1) I don’t think playing a 5th bowler will make much of a difference considering that Yuvraj and Pathan had the same economy rate as the other bowlers in the team and much better economy rates than the reserves have had in the recent past (Nehra went at 6 plus in helpful South African conditions and Sreesanth went for 53 in 5 overs in his previous match). I think the key is to bring Ashwin in instead of Chawla and open the bowling with Ashwin. Munaf does quite a good job when he is not bowling in the power plays.
    2) If at all some batsman has to be dropped it cannot be Gambhir. I think the Indians have too many game changers already whose forte is not their consistency (Sehwag, Yuvraj, Pathan and now even Dhoni). I think India needs 3 stable batsmen atleast and currently these three are Sachin, Kohli and Gambhir. If at all, India can do away with Pathan or Yuvraj (if we do play a 5th bowler their bowling becomes less important).

  10. Shounak March 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm ·

    Great Article Suhrith.

    I strongly believe playing a spinner in the penultimate over was a disaster by Dhoni, especially when none of spinners were in top form. The Team’s body language showed over confidence once the mammoth total was put on board. I think this time we were hit by complacency. Let’s not forget, we were already shown the trailer of the disastrous bowling attack in our match against Bangladesh.

    Now regarding the team composition, I suggest, drop Pathan and bring in another extra bowler in the side. In Indian sub continent we dont need such a deep batting order. Pathan will hardly get a chance to show his prowess with the bat, if this is the way the tournament is going to go. Further, as a bowler, I dont think he can contribute that much. So, we better stick with quality in the batting and continue with the likes of Gambhir and Kohli, who have been consistently delivering now.

    And yes, Dhoni should be a little more proactive as a Captain. We want to see the passion in him. May be he can take a few lessons from (I dare say) Shahid Afridi about how to lead a side… :)

  11. Suhrith March 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm ·

    Anirudh and Shounak,

    Thanks a lot. I know where both of you are coming from. In all likelihood, as you say, Anirudh, India will probably replace Chawla with Ashwin and that will be the only change they make. But I think in subcontinental pitches, Dhoni (I am not always a big fan of his batting) can be both steady when needed and can play the game-changing knocks. So in that sense, he tends to fulfill two roles. So you would have the steady in Tendulkar, Kohli and Dhoni and I think that may well be enough in these pitches.

    And I agree with you, Shounak, on Dhoni’s captaincy. His performance on Sunday left much to be desired. The field placement, the bowling changes were all mediocre and uninspiring.

  12. Raghuveer March 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm ·

    While it may seem pragmatic to drop gambhir for the sake of achieving the elusive team balance, gambhir has been unceasingly been better than his counterparts while we have chased targets. But one could argue that he does not merit a place in the team merely to cover the possibility of mounting a chase (under lights). In that case, dhoni should move up the order (possibly at No.3) considering that Kohli is a tad inexperienced. I am very apprehensive about our chances in the semis with such a bowling attack (the less said better) and a batting line up (barring Tendukar) that might unravel in a chase.

  13. Sergey June 29, 2015 at 10:49 am ·

    OMG those candles are to die for! And those catch all gold diehss are so elegant! Love it, great post and I’m glad you enjoyed bowling GNO! Those are the best

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