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What is your team for India versus Bangladesh?
March 17, 2007
Mine is, in batting order: Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel.
The glaring omission is Virender Sehwag.
On the one hand, you do want to get him back into form, but on the other hand, if he continues his current slump, you want Uthappa firing at the top, and since he is on current form the better option, you want to give him quality time in the middle before the key game against Sri Lanka.
The rest of the team picks itself all the way down to Dhoni at number six. I slotted Irfan Pathan at seven, because if he can get his form back, he becomes a key component of the team. At number seven, he becomes the natural buffer between Dhoni and the tail, freeing up Dhoni to do his thing without having to worry about shepherding the tail; if Dhoni gets out, then Pathan can take on the onus of hitting out at the death.
It also allows you to go in with five bowlers; the fact that you have four good regulars gives Irfan some cover, and an opportunity to get his bowling rhythm back without weakening the attack.
From there on, the rest of the team again picks itself, though it would be tempting to slot Kumble in place of Bajji for two reasons: one, you know what Bajji can do best; you need to get a good feel for how Kumble can do on the Caribbean wickets this time round, and this game provides an opportunity to test that option out.
Secondly, if the wickets are anything like the ones we saw in the Sri Lanka-Bermuda game, it will play lower and slower, and that sort of thing suits Kumble to a T.
Overall, you would want to look at two objectives. Winning the game is the first, and blindingly obvious, one. The other is fine-tuning your game to suit circumstances.
Team India has over the past six months identified situations and the right players for them - thus, if a wicket falls very early and if the opposition bowlers are swinging and seaming the ball around, Dravid will likely come ahead of Sachin to blunt the bowling for a bit, before the big hitters take the stage.
Similarly, if the openers fire and get the team off the blocks in a hurry, Sachin - or, just possibly, Dhoni - will come out to maintain the momentum. And in such a situation, Dravid will drop down the order, letting the power hitters - Yuvraj, Dhoni et al - precede him.
These are tactics the team has been refining in the dressing room; the lung-opener against Bangladesh gives the team a chance to try it out in practice.
Over to you - what team would you pick, and why?
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