The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Failure to defend a worry

West Indies went 2-0 up with an awesome display of batting that must now make the Indian selectors think long and hard about itís bowling. In spite of the fact that both the pitches so far have been good for batting the fact that India has not been able to defend healthy totals is indeed worrying.

Even more worrying is that the two bowlers expected to do the job on Indian pitches, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble have not been given their full quota of overs because the captain could not risk an extra over from them. That Virender Sehwag has bowled more than them in both games and better too tells a story in itself and unless the warning signs are heeded there could be disappointments in store.

Nobody is suggesting wholesale changes in the team for there is no need to press the panic button but today one-day cricket requires players who have more than two skills and not too many teams can afford single skill players. Most crucially, if a player is not a good fielder and is going to concede the extra run while fielding, then for him to be in the squad he has to be an outstanding batsman or a match-winning bowler and if the selectors put their hands on their hearts they will agree that there is no such single skill player in the current squad.

After the loss at Jamshedpur it was no surprise to see J.P. Yadav get dropped. He is not among the favourites who will be given chance after chance to come good like most others in the team whose failures were overlooked till they got that one performance that has now got them a permanent place and afforded them even more failures. He is a multi-skilled player and could do with the same kind of feeling that the others were given.

Sanjay Bangar is yet another who still hasnít won the minds of those who matter and unless these hungry players are not tried out, how are we going to build a side that is going to try for the World Cup'

As it is, India are two down with the best possible attack (except for Zaheer) and quite clearly it is the bowling which has cost them the matches for the batsmen have put up decent totals to defend. If the batting order can be toyed about with, then why is the same not being done with the bowling '

If Harbhajan can be sent ahead of the recognised dashers then why was Yuvraj Singh not given a bowl' He couldnít have gone for more than the others and he has the happy knack of picking wickets and breaking well-set partnerships. Who knows, like Sehwag has done with the ball, his slower pace off the wicket might just throw the stroke-making West Indians off.

Flexibility is the key in one-day cricket and the West Indians are showing it more than the Indians. Chanderpaul coming ahead of Hooper only to replace the left-handed Gayle and to keep a right-left combination at the crease is just one example of that. If it was Hinds in Jamshedpur it was his partner Gayle in Nagpur and with Samuels and Sarwan in the same magical touch, the big total that India had put up never seemed to faze the Windies as they began the chase and in the end made it look ridiculously easy.

With the pitch too playing true, the Indian bowlers were like snakes with their fangs de-venomised. One-day cricket is a batsmanís game and bowlers will get clobbered but it was the ease with which that happened to the Indian bowlers that is worrying.

There was the stoppage here too as objects were thrown at the West Indian fielders. Luckily it was not serious enough but the fact remains that spectators cannot expect that the price of a ticket allows them the right to throw objects at the players, whether it is a big stone or a small pebble. It is important for the police to be trained to watch the spectators and not the match.

A minimum of two rings of security is needed, one ring on the boundary watching the spectators and another ring right at the back of the stands so that the rowdy spectator is easily spotted. Unless that happens India will lose face as can be seen by the columns written after the Jamshedpur match by the very respected and experienced captains, Viv Richards and Carl Hooper. Player safety and security has to be above any petty Board vote politics.

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