Author : Aaditya Narayan
With the ODI series between South Africa and India getting underway in Johannesburg tomorrow, MS Dhoni, Duncan Fletcher and the Indian think-tank will think long and hard in getting the combination right, as that will go a long way in putting Team India on the right track for a long-awaited series win in the Rainbow Nation.
Here is a look at what could be an ideal combination for Team India going into the ODI series.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan
With 1247 runs from 22 innings at an average of 59.38, one cannot look to far beyond Rohit and Dhawan to fill in the opening batsmen’s slot in limited overs cricket for the foreseeable future.
These two have complemented each other beautifully and the fact that they form a left-right combination only helps them. Rohit and Dhawan have so far ensured that when one of them is in an aggressive mode, the other plays second fiddle. They don’t often try to match each other stroke-for-stroke, and that is crucial, because it ensures that wickets are not thrown away at the opposition.
The best thing with Rohit is that he seems to be batting with a much clear mind since his promotion to the top of the order, and that has ensured that he’s been a lot more certain and authoritative with his shot selection, and he has reaped the rewards. Dhawan has enjoyed a dream return, and it will be interesting to see for how long he can keep this run of scores going.
116 innings. 5000+runs. 17 centuries. Leading run scorer in ODIs in 2013. What more can you ask for from a no. 3 batsman? Kohli has evolved into being a master of the ODI game, especially the run-chase.
The West Indies series saw Kohli narrowly miss out on adding two more to his collection of ODI hundreds, something that is highly uncharacteristic of Kohli. So, he will be looking to make amends for those two missed opportunities. Kohli was in South Africa for the ODIs on the last tour and had only one score of note in that series.
The Kohli now is much different to the Kohli then, and Indian fans can look forward to a big series for the Delhi lad.
Last 2 series, 118 runs at an average of 19.66. Not the sort of numbers you’d like from one of your more experienced batsmen. Yuvraj has endured a torrid time recently, but showed signs of getting back into some form in the last ODI at Kanpur.
Yuvraj, as we all know, can be destructive, and on his day, is as big a match-winner as anyone in world cricket. Yuvraj must ensure that he gets in, tries to grind it out and doesn’t throw it away too easily. If Yuvraj gets his eye in, he might well be on his way to a big score. And, when Yuvraj gets a big score, more often than not, India will win the game.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
It is common logic that the best batsman in the side bats as high up the order as possible. But, with Dhoni being as good a finisher as he is, that is always a conundrum which Dhoni has to deal with. No. 5 is the ideal position from Dhoni, because of his ability to read and dictate the flow of a game.
For someone with a career average of 50+ in around 250 games, Dhoni at no.6 is way too low for anyone’s liking. At no.5, Dhoni can direct the flow of the innings in the middle overs, while also giving himself time to get his eye in before the final assault.
Raina has struggled in recent times with his promotion up the order. No. 6 is the position where he has played some of his most crucial knocks for India. At the death overs, Raina just seems to find his mojo, and batting higher up the order, he has not been able to withstand the bowling for long enough, to get into the death overs.
Raina is probably a better finisher than he is at setting up the finish. Playing under Dhoni in the IPL, Raina has learnt to keep calm under pressure and finish off the job. Raina has scored 1438 runs at no.6 at an average of nearly 35, and that is a decent record when you come in at 6 with a batting line-up as strong as India’s as has been over the years.
The pivot. The man that lends MS Dhoni that balance he so craves for, in his teams. Jadeja has become Dhoni’s trump-card, especially with the ball, so much so, that should any difficult situation arise, Jadeja is the first man that Dhoni goes to. But, Jadeja has been uninspiring with the bat post the Champions Trophy, and to prolong his stay as India’s no.7, Jadeja must improve his batting.
The best spinner in the country right now, Ashwin is an automatic choice at no.8. His ability as a batsman ensures that India have reasonable depth in the batting. Ashwin, like Jadeja, is someone on whom Dhoni places a lot of faith. After taking a hammering in the ODIs against Australia, Ashwin responded beautifully in the Tests against the Windies and followed it up with a similar show in the ODIs.
One criticism of Ashwin in the Australia ODIs was that he was trying too many things, and he responded in the West Indies series by sticking to his off-breaks and varying his pace, line and length.
Probably the only fast bowler who is an automatic pick, Bhuvneshwar has had an outstanding start to his international career and has already built a reputation as a top new ball bowler. His control with the new ball and ability to bowl to left handers (Smith and De Kock in SA’s top order) will be crucial to India’s chances.
This would not be a popular choice with a lot of Indians at the moment, but Ishant is still the only member of this fast bowling attack who has been to South Africa before, and his experience could prove to be beneficial. Also, the bounce in the pitches will be to Ishant’s liking, and he will be looking to make the most out of it.
Shami has had a terrific recent few months, especially in the Tests against the West Indies. He also bowled well in the Australia ODIs where he troubled the batsman with his ability to get the ball to nip back in at pace. Shami needs a big ODI series just to prove to detractors that he can cut it at the highest level as well.