One-day cricket need Multi-dimensional players

Written by: Arjuna Ranatunga
Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2005, 16:07 [IST]
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India could be the worst fielding side in world cricket at present. They allowed extra runs in the field during the final of the cricket tri-series against Sri Lanka and when itcame to themselves, lost a few while running between the wickets. Add up all those and you have the difference between winning and losing.

There were those two regulation chances in the slips, which were dropped off Sanath Jayasuriya. It was the surest way to invite disaster. Virender Sehwag has let go a few inthe field in this tournament and I am not sure if Rahul Dravid's presence in the slips could have counted. He is one of the best slips fieldsman and you do not catch over hundredscalps in that position without being special. But he needed to man his players from the midwicket and it took him out of the cordon.

In a way, it was ironic that a bit of smart fielding ejected Jayasuriya from the middle. India must count them lucky for Jayasuriya had set himself up for an innings of 150 or 160 runs. He was in a groove and was bisecting the field with his customary precision.

Along with Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, Jayasuriya was one of the three senior-most cricketers who mattered for Sri Lanka in the night. These three are of timeless quality, the rocks, who have braved the onslaught of faster, fitter and stronger one-day cricket from one decade to another.

India should have been alert to these formidable men Instead; we had a Virender Sehwag who wanted to take on Chaminda Vaas, the number one ranked bowler in One-day cricket in the world. Sehwag needed to make a difference between a Lokhuttege and a Vaas. He had the Sri Lankan attack on their knees. Another 10 overs at the crease and he would have been the toast of India. In the end, what did he achieve? Just a glimmer of hope when he could have had the entire nation basking in the glory of his light.

India just did not plan well enough. If you give 4-5 wickets to the duo of Vaas and Murali, that's a blow in the guts. India needed to target and create more Lokhutteges among the Sri Lankans. The best way to do it was in the middle overs for Vaas and Murali would have given nothing away in the final count.

Dravid and Yuvraj had a good partnership but I would have preferred Irfan Pathan ahead of Mohammad Kaif in that critical juncture. You can't be happy with the post-mortem after somebody has died. A report is no substitute for an opportunity lost in the field.

Not that Sri Lanka does not deserve censure. I feel they were off to a real bad start. The promotion of Lokhuttege made no sense. The hosts had more experienced pinch-hitters like Chaminda Vaas, Upul Chandana, Tilakratne Dilshan, Farvez Mahroof and yet opted for a rookie on a stage as special as a final.

Mahela Jayawardene was sensible and Russel Arnold is back to where he belongs but again they made a hash of things in the final overs.

They also went with a bad mix in the finals. To my eyes, there were only three proper bowlers in Sri Lanka team, Chaminda Vaas, Muthiah Muralitharan and Farvez Mahroof. The rest were all fill-in bowlers. The best and the barest combination in one-day cricket is at least four frontline bowlers.

I would have never dropped Nuwan Zoysa from the line-up. He is a tough cookie and always brings wickets upfront. When Sehwag was skinning the likes of Mahroof and Lokhutteges to the bones, Zoysa was being missed badly.

Somehow I remain sceptical about the five frontline bowlers theory. Do we have an example in world cricket where five specialist bowlers have mattered in one-day context? Even Australia restricts itself to four quality bowlers.

India looked for thoroughbreds when multidimensional cricketers are the call of One-day cricket. The likes of Arnold and Dilshans, Brad Hoggs and Ashley Giles, Abdul Razzaqand Shahid Afridi are able to don different hats in the fluid world of one-day cricket quickly.

Remember, single dimensional talents are easy to mark and sometimes a solitary arrow is enough to bring them down to earth. But if you are a chameleon, you can sneak in and move ahead with the furtiveness required in one-day cricket.

One keeps hearing that this Indian team needs more time to turn around the corner. They would surely not be able to do so if the legs and spirits are as tardy as that of the presentlot.

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