India vs Pakistan: Wanted - Patience by the bucketload
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Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team did not fare well under the new ODI rules applicable from October last year in their first attempt in Chennai last week. Pakistan hadn't played under these new amendments to the 50-over game either. But with Mohammad Irfan, a shade over seven feet tall, and Junaid Khan, blessed with the ability to viciously swing the ball both ways, opening their attack, the new rules looked to be tailor-made for Pakistan to exploit.
With two new balls being used in ODI cricket, not to forget the recent amendment to Law 42.6 which allows bowlers to bowl two bouncers in an over, India found themselves all at sea in Chennai, in dealing with Junaid's relentless movement off the air and wicket (the ball was twice as new from both ends) and Irfan's quaking bounce (two an over).
Also, with fielding teams now only allowed four men outside the 30-yard circle throughout the game, the onus was on India's openers to preserve their wickets in the early going and set up a springboard for a final assault.
They, however, played the old-fashioned way of trying to hit out of trouble and soon found themselves on 29 for five. And if India do not equip themselves with this new mindset and openers who have the temperament to see off the early bounce and swing, then expect more of the same in Kolkata.
The Eden Gardens wicket is said to have plenty of carry for the second one-dayer. Advantage Irfan. And winters in Kolkata is said to assist plenty of lateral movement. Advantage Junaid. So, unless the good old steady, painfully dour opener is brought back in vogue by India after close to two decades of daredevilry at the top of the order, they will continue to complain and not command in this new format. Dhoni, of course, agrees.
Respect the bowler
"Now, the game's about playing as many balls as possible and not think about a very big total. It has become important to keep wickets in hand and treat every ball on its merit so that the advantage the batting team has with five fielders always inside the circle can be utilised (in the later stages)," the Team India captain said.
This sounds great in theory, but is it possible to backtrack so many years of the game's evolution in this format? It is apparently, as Pakistan's Nasir Jamshed put on display at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
Jamshed's unbeaten 101 was hardly spectacular. What with the left-hander hitting five boundaries in four hours. The opener wasn't attractive, but did the difficult part of surviving the new-ball, and ensured that Pakistan had a set batsman throughout their run-chase.
Funnily enough, Virender Sehwag found it hard to give the first half-an-hour to the bowlers in spicy conditions in Test cricket. He liked and still likes to call the shots from the very beginning. So it will be interesting to see if he is willing to do so in a format in which he has set the pulse racing from the very first ball. The captain, however, has his mind made up on what he wants his openers to do.
"The bottomline is balance," said Dhoni. "Giving the first 10-15 overs to the bowlers might allow the batsmen to take control of the proceedings for the rest of the innings."
He knows what he is talking about, considering Dhoni's rearguard hundred was one of the finest in One-day International cricket, despite it coming in a winning cause. At the Eden Gardens on Thursday, Dhoni would like to see his other team mates following his method.
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...And an all-rounder too
MS Dhoni said Wednesday that his side was finding it increasingly difficult to win matches with part-timers and would now need a genuine all-rounder, keeping in mind the new ODI rules.
"We are used to playing with part-timers. Now it's difficult for them to bowl with five players inside the circle," Dhoni said. "With the new rules, you've to assess whether six batsmen are enough or seven. It's very difficult to expect our part-timers to bowl 10 overs."
"What we're looking at is somebody who can fill in the gap a genuine all-rounder," he added. (PTI)