Friday, February 26, 2010

The team and the individual - getting the balance right

Quick straw-poll: how many folks watching the Gwalior ODI yelled at the television sets (or at the monitor) when Dhoni took a single off the last ball of the 48th and 49th overs? (I presume people were a little louder when he did it in the 49th over).

Well, I did. Because like everyone else, I had forgotten about the match underway, and the fact that it was being played by two teams, and had become fixated on the achievements of one man. Fair enough to a point; world records do tend to obsess us and the man occupying centerstage was not just any player but arguably the greatest batsman of his generation.

But later, when I had calmed down a bit and put the rampaging schoolboy in me to bed, I thought a bit more about my reaction. What exactly, had I wanted Dhoni to do? And I don't just mean the bit about the single, for I had wanted him to turn the strike over to Tendulkar as quickly as possible.

But why on earth should Dhoni have done that? The team needed one thing at that moment, and one thing alone: as many runs as possible on the board. There is not point in saying, "We already had 350 runs plus on the board". This is a modern ODI and such scores are not unattainable.

Dhoni could have turned the strike over to Tendulkar, yes, and then perhaps, gone back to his hitting ways. But why let that consideration arise? In a team-sport, if a team is to truly rise to champion level, it must, find a way to somehow subjugate the individual (and I don't mean that in any offensive sense whatsoever) to the team's needs.

I agree that a happy team is made up of those folks who think the collective takes care of their individual aspirations; hence the attention paid to individual landmarks when timing declarations. But the cleverest declarations run these two together ("We need some quick runs, go on get your ton, I can give you another 10 overs before we call it off").

And Dhoni, canny man that he is, knew he could balance the two. I don't doubt he would have taken a single quicker had Tendulkar been on 195. His swinging for the fences added runs aplenty and even the singles that he took on the last balls of those overs only came about because his shots didn't. He wasn't trying to keep the strike, he just kept playing the shots as he could manage them, all the while knowing that Tendulkar was tiring, and couldn't play the big run-producing shots any more.

All that was needed was a single, and he knew Tendulkar would need two balls at most. When the time came, he turned down the chance for a second run and let us all (including Tendulkar) a sigh of relief.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I don't agree one bit. I know I tend to look at Dhoni's activities in negative light many times. But I disagree with you point of view based on sound cricketing logic.

It was obvious to one and all that SRT would not have gone for slogs in 190s and we can forgive him for that. You can't say that he was not putting the team first, because all of those 190 runs were scored for the team.

Had Sachin reached his 200 by 47th or 48th over (he was 198 at the end of 47), it would have allowed him to go for his shots again. MSD himself said that SRT used the pace of bowlers very well. And I am sure, given the way he batted from 147 to 186 (those 39 runs in 18 balls), it wouldn't have been much more different after his 200.

I am not complaining because eventually even MSD scored at a very good strike rate, but it was a riskier strategy. A lot more safer idea would have been to allow SRT reach his 200 earlier and then explode again as he had had the best measure of the conditions by then.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That's really well put, Samir.

Shridhar, I think there's no real template for how to score a 200 in ODIs...perhaps you are overthinking it :-)

1:20 PM  
Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...


WillowTV has put up video scorecards for the two Tests and the two ODI's. When they did not have it up the day after the second Test, I wrote to them. They replied in 2 days that it would be put up soon and a day later it was.


1:45 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Shridhar: Fair enough as an alternative reading of the situation. I'm not sure I agree with the bit about "sound cricketing logic" though :) just because SRT did look a bit tired and was losing some of the punch in his shots.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

JK: Thanks - I felt I had to say something given my response at the time!

2:30 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

JQ: You've had better luck than me. Four emails and counting, no response to my request that they help in getting Silverlight to work on my Ubuntu machine. I've thought of asking for a refund. I've even written to the owner; no replies from him either.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Nikhil Shah said...

The selection of fast bowlers and all rounders is a bit complicated for the Indian selectors.

There are several posiblities : Overseas conditions with the ball swinging and seaming with pace and bounce and sub continental conditions with spin bowling, in addition Test and ODI formats have to be considered as well.

The ODI format in India for opening bowlers is quite a problem these days. With free-hits and power plays the economy rates of ODI bowlers have increased by 1 run per over.

What use be ODI ECO rates of 4.5 as good one, the bar has been lowered to about 5.5. ODI ECO rates of Dale Steyn of 5.2 is a prime example.

In addition to flat tracks, the need to bowl yorkers, slower ones, bouncers and the effort ball takes time and with some exposure to international cricket these bowlers can eventually mature.

So for ODIs in India, Zaheer, Nehra and Praveen are good selections with pace and control, Jadeja is an excellent choice for a spinner allrounder. In Test matches, Ishant and Zaheer are a solid pair in the subcontinent.

In overseas conditions in ODIs Praveen and Irfan Pathan can be good allrounders with Zaheer, Ishant and Sreesanth. We would like to add Tyagi for being as quick as Ishant.

With Nehra and Zaheer already 31 years old, the search for their replacements did not look very good after the last ODI.

Tyagi was the quickest of them all bowling at a range of 84-89 mph, in the range of Ishant but was spraying the ball all over the place.

Mithun had better control and could be more suitable for ODIs with his yorkers and bouncers on a faster pitch.

Overall, Tyagi was more suitable for Test matches like Ishant and Sreesanth because of his pace and Mithun for ODI for being a bit versatile.

Sreesanth may just be the #3 seamer outside India for Test matches. We do not have a bowler like Zaheer for now for the future and 2 other bowlers from the IPL team the Rajasthan Royals are future candidates. Kamran Khan and Atul Sharma who is suppose to be quicker than Shoaib and Brett Lee.

For now: Zaheer Nehra and Praveen could be the trio for the WC. We did see the potential in Tyagi and Mithun from this ODI we need to see at least 10-15 ODIs to judge them.

As far as the batting is concerned, Kohli, Yusuf and Sharma are adequate but seam bowling in India continues to be a problem.

Praveen maybe the suitable 3rd seamer in India for ODIs because of the need to prevent free-hits and power plays and also additional skills such as bouncers, yorkers, effort ball and control in the death overs.

12:43 PM  

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