Depart-timers: Bring back specialists

SP

On Sunday, as his former teammates were being ground to dust by the Pakistani batsmen, Harbhajan Singh couldn't help himself from voicing his opinions regarding one of ODI cricket's new guidelines. "With new rule u wil see teams chasing 400 runs in ODI format in asian conditions. tough days fr al bowlers ahd in ODI," Harbhajan tweeted.

The one rule in particular he was referring to came into force in November, reducing the number of fielders that can be positioned near the boundary from five to four during the non-powerplay overs.

While Harbhajan was expressing his apprehension regarding the new regulation, doomsaying the road ahead for his fellow bowlers even, MS Dhoni & Co were experiencing it first hand at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

The experienced Indian skipper would have realised its potential ill-effects on India's ODI fortunes straight up. He only had to analyse the damage meted out to his part-time spinners when they were brought onto bowl for validation. For, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli were taken for 77 runs in their collective quota of 10 overs, a period of the match where Pakistan broke away from the stranglehold imposed on them by India's new-ball bowlers.

The yuvraj factor

Dhoni has made no bones regarding his predilection for using his part bowlers in the middle overs of a 50-over contest. While Yuvraj was used quite occasionally by Sourav Ganguly — only in 48 out of 110 matches — under Dhoni he's bowled double the number of overs. To his credit, with 55 wickets at 36.85, he's been a crucial performer for his captain in the sub-continent.

The likes of Raina, Kohli and even Rohit Sharma too have been used extensively, and overall in 128 ODIs during Dhoni's reign, his part-timers have bowled a total of 844.5 overs with 101 scalps at 43.62, and importantly at an economy rate of 5.21. Basically, they've proved to be an underrated yet critical factor in his triumphs in this format.

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