India -SL ODI:Tactical Errors

The rain shortened ODI between India and Sri Lanka was an exciting game. Sri Lanka knocked off the D/L target rather comfortably thanks to Jayasuriya’s rollicking start. Analyzing the match after the result it surely sounds like the Indian think tank missed a trick or two.

Runs are Never Enough When the Weather Can Intervene

With the match shortened to 29 overs, and a clear likelihood of rain, Team India’s goal should have been to get as many runs as possible. Under these circumstances, India got off to a decent start with 49 runs in 8.2 overs (a run rate of over 6 runs an over) when Sachin Tendulkar was out. With just 20 overs to go on a ground with at least a couple of short boundaries, and free stroking batsmen like Yuvraj, Uthappa, Dhoni and Pathan still to come, India goofed badly by sending in Rohit Sharma. No offense to the young man. Rohit Sharma is a terrific talent and has a bright future ahead of him, especially in Test cricket. But the decision to send him in at number four in the match ultimately caused India the game (Sreesanth bowling performance coming in a close second).

Wrong Batting Order

Rohit Sharma is an “anchor player” in the Rahul Dravid mould, who is incapable of the brutal strikes that one could associate with Yuvraj, Uthappa, Dhoni and Pathan. His natural game comes in handy when there is a desperate need to contain the fall of wickets. In this match, this was hardly the need of the hour. With still 20 overs to go, an out of form Yuvraj or a match practice hungry Uthappa might have been a better bet at number 4 especially with Dhoni and Pathan to follow.

Poor Planning

The net result was that India ended up with a score of 195 at a run rate of 6.72, a marginal improvement over the run rate at the end of the first 8 overs. Most importantly, India failed to give Yuvraj, Uthappa and Pathan a chance to have a go. Rohit Sharma’s final score and strike rate hides the fact that he struggled mid-way through his innings and team India lost the momentum required to set a big score. If Yuvraj or Uthappa had managed to settle down, India might have been able to end with a flourish that would have set even an aggressive T20 total. Unfortunately, it looked like India was playing throughout assuming that this was going to be a 29-over match when in reality India should have planned for the eventuality of a further curtailment.

By the time the target was reduced, India was defending a modest T20 total of 154 on a ground with short boundaries against one of the most aggressive batsmen in the game with an erratic Sreesanth. It was pretty much game over then and there. Having keenly observed Dhoni’s leadership, his performance as a captain in this match was easily one of the low points in his captaincy stint thus far.

Moral of the Story

Never save your best hitters on a rainy day.

p.s: If you are wondering how Rumsfeld made it to a cricket story, its because he has become synonyms with tactical errors.

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