The all-important fifth wheel
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For the last 31 months at a stretch — ever since he last took a break during the ODI tri-series in Zimbabwe — MS Dhoni has been the figurehead of the Indian side. And for almost the entirety of that period, the Indian captain has struggled to find suitable contenders, or even have enough options, to fill the fifth bowler's spot.
Although Ravindra Jadeja — who has recently hit his stride in that role — managed to give him some depth as a part-time fifth bowler during the return series (which India won 5-0), the lack of support for the left-arm spinner had cost Dhoni dearly during the ODI leg of the debacle of a tour. The reigning world champions failed to keep abreast with Alastair Cook & Co, as the hosts milked the constantly changing fifth Indian bowler to a 3-0 series win. The current part-time Indian captain, however, cannot have the same set of complaints.
Just as Dhoni decided to sit out his first series in a while, the Indian side has been provided with the benefit of more fifth bowler choices — Jadeja included — than they perhaps ever had in the recent short-format past. For one, skipper Virender Sehwag can do something that Dhoni couldn't, turn to himself as an option to break annoying partnerships.
Apart from his own fully recovered bowling arm, Sehwag is blessed with the services of Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and even Virat Kohli to assist the primary four in the bowling attack. While the pitches in the subcontinent are of course known to replicate paradise for the wide willowed batters, and the resultant run-fests do generously pull in the hoardes as witnesses, history suggests that the balance of an ODI match in India is more often than not tipped by the side with the healthiest mix of bowling variations. And just on that record alone, Sehwag's men will go in as favourites over the next fortnight against the boys from the Caribbean.