Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Without Dhoni, Yuvraj and Raina, the Asia Cup squad is short of finishers

There's suddenly a sense of void. The familiar Indian middle-order in ODIs wears an unfamiliar look as it left for Bangladesh to take part in the Asia Cup. For the first time since January 24, 2004, the famed finishing trio of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni won't feature in an Indian line-up.

These three have been proven match-winners for India in ODIs, especially when it comes to games in the subcontinent. But while Yuvi and Raina have lost form, Dhoni is out with a side-strain that will keep him out for a while.

There's of course the prolific Virat Kohli who will be the guiding light for this batting-order, but there might be a situation where the pressure can get a little too much for him. "Who are the men on whom Kohli will bank on to give that impetus in the middle-order," is question doing the rounds.

Dinesh Karthik will certainly play and in that case Kohli is left with four options - Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane and Stuart Binny for the other two slots. There's a school of thought that believes Pujara has to be played on the bouncy pitches in Australia during the 2015 World Cup and the process should start from here. "This is certainly the opportunity to bring Pujara into the playing XI in ODIs and give him the time to settle down," former Indian opener Chetan Chauhan told TOI.

Despite becoming a regular in the Test side over the last three years, Pujara has only played two ODIs (both in Zimbabwe, incidentally in a team led by Kohli) and Dhoni is not convinced about the right-hander's batting credentials in the shorter version. There are some who feel Pujara lacks the ability to take a bowling attack apart, which is crucial in ODIs. "If Pujara is batting at No. 3, I understand, but Kohli owns that slot in ODIs. Is Pujara the right man at No. 4 where you need to push things along?" Kolkata Knight Riders' batting coach WV Raman asks. Chauhan, though, gives the counter-argument. "No. 3 or 4, pick Pujara first in the ODIs. He is one complete batsman who can do well in any format," he says.

The feeling in the Indian cricket fraternity is that Rahane will be persisted with for a while at No. 4. He played all five games in New Zealand without really making an impact, but the Test matches were productive for him. The batsman has done well in IPL as well and the pundits believe that it's a matter of time before Rahane comes good in ODIs as well. "See, he has the class and technique. You can have the odd bad series, but he should be given another chance," Raman said.

The big worry, though is whether Rahane or Pujara could lend the thrust that Yuvraj, Dhoni or Raina could. Karthik, of course, has shown in the IPL that he can be a destructive batsman at the back-end of the innings, but he hasn't quite done it in the 67 ODIs that he has played for India. Of course, he had a good Champions Trophy, belting hundreds in warm-up matches against Sri Lanka and Australia.

One might argue that since Dhoni's arrival, he has never got an extended run, but that's the nature of international cricket, where chances are limited. "He certainly has the ability, this is the platform to prove that he can translate that into performance," Raman, who coaches Karthik in the Tamil Nadu team, added.

And then there's Binny as well, who was brilliant with the bat in the Irani Cup final for Karnataka against Rest of India. He has the ability to move the ball around, though the pace can be a little too gentle for top-flight cricket. He got a game in New Zealand where he didn't get a chance to show his talent and the team management might be tempted to check whether the 28-year-old has the mettle to shape up as the all-rounder that India is craving for.

"The boy can hit big...If the pitch has a little bit in it for medium-pacers, it wouldn't be a bad idea to try him. We need an all-rounder and he's probably the best we have at the moment," Chauhan said.

Of course, the IPL helps you to learn how to finish matches, but the way Yuvraj and Dhoni in particular could read a game situation and pace their innings, is second to none.

One person's despair is someone else's opportunity. The ball is now in Kohli's court to try out various combinations and take the first step towards forming a team for the World Cup in Australia in a year's time.

No comments:

Post a Comment