What did India learn?
- Of Uthappa and Gambhir, the former, thanks to his whirlwind 70 off 41 balls, should win the World Cup berth.
- Ajit Agarkar -- much as I dislike accepting it -- will be given the plane ticket to the West Indies.
- Given the rate of his free-fall, Suresh Raina may not even get a plane ticket to Ghaziabad, which is where I believe he lives. He is perhaps hanging on mainly due to his fielding.
- The jury is probably still out on Karthik.
- Kumble may have to hang up his ODI shoes (at least, I hope he does).
- Powar seems to have got his numbers (and game) right although he might himself endorse a petition to have the "all rounder" moniker wiped off his bio.
- Sreesanth has possibly lost his grip on the team although he may yet earn a plane plane ticket to the Windies.
The loss in the 3rd ODI couldn't have, as I said at the start of this post, come at a better time...
I'd suggest that the team for the 4th ODI should be (in batting order):
Saurav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, M. S. Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan
This team would still be one "bit bowler" short. So, the only question mark would then be on whether Sehwag makes the cut instead of Dinesh Karthik in the final XI. My preference would be to have Sehwag in the XI, mainly because, Pathan, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Yuvraj and Sehwag can (together) bowl 20 overs.
On the point of bowl-outs of the last 10 overs (or the 5th bowlers' quota) by "bit bowlers", I believe that the thinking has shifted -- slowly but perceptibly. Previously, teams were only looking to bowl-out just the last 10 overs with one or two "bit bowlers". The current thinking is that teams need a good mix of a few players who are able to bowl-out 20 overs. That way, teams can take in 3 mainline bowlers and take a clutch of bowlers who can bowl-out the remaining 20 overs.
I think India should adopt this strategy that Australia and South Africa have successfully employed over the last 2-3 years or so. Australia only look to 3 bowlers bowling-out their 10-over quota. Typically, this would be Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken. The remaining 20 overs would be bowled-out by a combination of Mitchell Johnson (of late), Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Cameron White.
Similarly, for India.
I do not believe that the team should look to have Pathan bowl-out his 10 overs. He is not a 10 over bowler in ODIs. He should be treated as a "bit bowler" in the same mould as a Jacques Kallis or a Michael Clarke or an Andrew Symonds. That may help clarify his role in the team a bit better. Of course, there will be days when he bowls magnificently to have figures of 10-2-35-3. But then, these should be bonuses rather than the norm.
I believe India should look to bowl-out Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, while a combination of Pathan, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Sehwag and Yuvraj should bowl-out the remaining 20 overs.
If Sehwag does play in the XI, my suggestion would be that he bats in the middle order, just ahead of Dhoni. He can then unleash his array of strokes in the final overs. With Dhoni, it would be an interesting mayhem to watch!
The irony of it all is quite amazing. Here is a cricketer, low on technique who is a Test opener but a one day middle order player! Hummpphhh! So much for logic and rationale... But then, that is the type of cricketer Sehwag is. He does defy logic and rationale in almost everything he does.
Sehwag is set to play 3 ODI games for Delhi-A against Delhi-B, as part of Delhi's preparation for the Ranji ODI Tournament (slated to commence Feb 10). Sehwag leads one of the teams while regular Delhi captain, Mithun Manhas leads the other. The timing of these practice games appears somewhat manufactured. Clearly DDCA is keen to get Sehwag back in Team India -- and why not! The practice games have been so hastily organised that even some of the Delhi team players appear to be unaware. The three games are on Monday 29 January, Tuesday 30 January and Thursday 1 February. Sehwag is clearly sweating and hungry at the moment. And that can only be good for Indian cricket. The team needs him there with a fiery hunger -- and not lackadaisical complacency -- in his belly.
Apart from the XI named above for the next game against the Windies, the remaining 4 players in the XV could be: Virender Sehwag, [Anil Kumble or Ramesh Powar], [Munaf Patel or S. Sreesanth], [Suresh Raina or Gautam Gambhir or Joginder Sharma].
If the 4 that are selected are Sehwag, Powar, Munaf and Raina (very likely), unfortunately, that means that India will go with 4 seamers and 2 spinners in the XV. But that's they way things have panned out, especially since R. P. Singh and Joginder Sharma have been sent home.