India could still end up as winner of the tri-series

Written by: Arjuna Ranatunga
Published: Monday, August 1, 2005, 14:22 [IST]
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India's reshuffled batting order for the second match of the tri-series was the talk of the evening in Dambulla on Sunday. Except for Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, it seemed anybody could walk in into the middle. While the guessing game has its own merit in a boring game, I still am not impressed with the Indian tactics. To my eyes, they panicked.

When a team is selected, selectors, coach and captain thrash out the details behind closed doors and the first thing they do is to look at the balance of the side. They decide who two would open the innings, who would occupy the middle order, the wicketkeeper, bowlers etc. But here it was a lottery. I felt happy for Mohammad Kaif that he was tried out at the opener's slot. But the balance of the line-up was all awry.

The two Indian youngsters are loaded with potential but you must not throw them into the deep end when they do not know how to swim. Ideally, the batting slots should have a mix of experience and youth, the balancing factor must never be overlooked.

Sehwag and Dhoni as openers; Dravid at number three to shepherd the young Raina at number four; Mohammad Kaif to go with Venugopal Rao and Yuvraj Singh to follow -- that is the kind of blend Indians should have opted for. In the end it appeared easy but we would never know the outcome of this experiment if Raina was held on the off-side while still waiting to open his account.

The other thing which caught my eye in the evening will gladden the Indian hearts. They should rejoice at the presence of their three left-arm pacemen. These three were terrific and could form one of the most potent bowling attacks in the next World Cup. It does not matter they do not offer variety. Cricket always advocates that your best bowlers should play. If they are all left-armers, so be it. You do not have to bring a right-armer just for the heck of it and pay at leisure later.

Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra, for two days running, showed exemplary control. They did not allow Sri Lanka to break free and the inexperienced West Indies were never a safe bet to take them on. India's left-arm pacemen are from the top drawer. If they retain fitness and form, they will be counted at the time of the 2007 World Cup.

Anil Kumble was again not played for the second day running and that is a mistake. You do not bring him to Sri Lanka and not play him. If he was there on Saturday night and I was the opposition captain, I would have never asked my batsmen to take chances against him. That is the kind of respect he commands in batsmen's minds. It must be made use of.

That brings me to the issue of Sourav Ganguly. Now that he is in Sri Lanka, speculation would be rife on his relationship with his former deputy and now the leader at the deck, Rahul Dravid. Frankly, I do not foresee any trouble. I know Ganguly well and am aware he has a raging fire for the good of Indian cricket.

He is a gutsy combative character and I respect him a lot. He would give the personal equation a secondary role. These men, cricketers like Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar and Kumble, are not the ones who worry about their positions. They are the ones who are only concerned about the good of the team. They are shining examples in model conduct for youngsters.

Dravid is also not a fool who would look out to slight Ganguly. He would do his best to make use of Ganguly's experience and class; the same that he himself proffered when he was deputy to the left-hander.

Besides, the presence of Greg Chappell would always be around to douse any fire from gaining ground.

Ganguly has a lot to offer by way of everything. It must be conveyed to him that he is wanted. I remember when Murali was no-balled in Australia for the first time, he did not want to go to the ground. I told him he would be around, he was needed. Even if it was to be in the role of 12th man.

I still feel that Sri Lanka is the strongest team in the competition. But I am not sure if they are playing their best cricket. India, on the other hand, are beginning to warm up. I would not be surprised if they end up as winners of the triangular and Man of the Series is none other than Ganguly himself.

For he is that sort of man.

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