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'India paid the price for dumping five-bowler theory'

By Michael Holding
June 16, 2006 17:10 IST
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I would have thought it hurts India when it is not winning Tests abroad. But if it was so, they would have picked five bowlers for this Test. They have taken two steps backwards from the days in Pakistan when the five-bowler theory was heralded with much fanfare. Now against a weaker bowling attack, they have chosen to strengthen their batting at the cost of bowling. It doesn't make sense.

Irfan Pathan was reintroduced but he is jaded. Both Munaf Patel and V R V Singh were okay but a judgment must wait since they have just embarked on an arduous journey.

I saw merit in Sehwag's effort but Kumble was, well just Kumble. He is a strong individual, a tough cricketer, mentally and physically. He bowled 70 overs in this Test which is not too unusual from a cricketer who came out to bowl with a broken jaw in Antigua the last time he pitched in for his team in 2002.

Still, India is on the rise and these issues are minor when you look at the travails which have engulfed the home team. I am not too critical of the batting for the trinity of Sarwan, Lara and Chanderpaul are good enough to make most international sides. They are only inconsistent which, I guess, still does not help the situation.

It would be easy to judge West Indian batsmen harshly on their technique since so many batsmen have been given out lbw in this series. Sometimes the batsmen have not appeared in the same league while confronting Kumble and at other times, the Indian medium-pacers too have looked in business.

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But I maintain these guys have made runs against all-comers. These were the men who showed their worth while chasing down 418 runs against Australia not very long ago. I would not call them short of class.

Bowling, in contrast, is in a trough and over 1,100 runs conceded in two innings makes any argument in its defence pointless. I fear West Indies could end up having a new attack in every Test that is played in this series.

It takes time to build combinations and it cannot be produced at the drop of a hat. West Indies would stumble from one set to another in desperation and would be lucky if anything worthwhile is thrown up. The number of players tried in the West Indies cricket set up in recent years is no laughing matter.

Indian batsmen must lick their lips in anticipation at least for St. Kitts as Sabina Park in Jamaica interests bowlers. It brings me back to my original argument that India does not need an extra batsman. The Dhonis, Pathans and Kumbles areĀ a handy presence low in the order. If it means sacrificing a V V S Laxman or a Yuvraj Singh to respond to team's call, so be it. We all have heard about horses for courses.

I have no doubt India would not carry with their foolhardy ways in the next Test. Three centuries in the game in St. Lucia is reason enough for them to shift attention to the area which is holding up their charge.

Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif played fine hands but the one from Sehwag was sumptuous. The batting aficionados must have loved what Sehwag and Brian Lara produced at the start and end of this Test.

Lara stamped his presence on the game with a decisive innings. He saved the day for his team and it made sense for him to come at the number three spot. The best batsman of the team must take the one-drop position for it is pivotal and prepares the pitch for the rest.

If your best man is lower in the order, the ones preceding him can tend to relax. It even works if the best man was to fail at the number three spot. The ones who follow him would then respond to the responsibility.

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Michael Holding
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