RANCHI: Apart from the chill in the air, what strikes a newcomer to the capital of Jharkhand is the nature of surroundings. The style and height of architectures are different. You do see multi-nationals peeping out of billboards and familiar brands making their presence felt, but there are no skyscrapers, flyovers or plush avenues. English isn’t necessarily the password to solutions and M S Dhoni’s city still presents a rustic charm that is in stark contrast with other Indian cities where the cricket caravan checks in.
The Indian team’s recent outings too suggest a change in pattern, although it looks like an effort rather than exception. There seems to be a plan to protect wickets early and accelerate later. It doesn’t sound unique, but this has resulted in caution instead of attacking shots in the first 10-15 overs, when there are fewer fielders outside the circle. This is a significant shift, considering that hitting early is the name of the one-day game in these parts, where breezy starts are often considered mandatory for big totals.
A glance at how India have built their innings in the series versus Sri Lanka reveals a trend — going slow early, preserving wickets, accelerating from the middle overs and trying to explode in the closing stages. The total after 15 overs in the gigantic 404 in the previous match was 70/2. At the same stage in the first match in Cuttack where the tally soared to 363, it was 69/0. This can be attributed to new balls from both ends and homework ahead of the World Cup, where initial behaviour of the ball is expected to be more hostile than in India.
“We’re trying to do something wherein we can have as many wickets as possible towards the latter half of the innings. It’s a conscious decision. We feel it’s vital to preserve wickets, keeping in mind new balls and conditions in Australia,” said India’s assistant coach Sanjay Bangar on Saturday, a day ahead of India’s last match at home before they leave on November 21 for a long tour of Australia to play four Tests, an ODI tri-series and the World Cup, to be co-hosted by New Zealand. The former all-rounder was part of the 2003 World Cup squad that played in kiwi country in the lead-up.
In India’s one-day wonders in Australia, the combined role of openers have been different. While the Kris Srikkanth-Ravi Shastri pair of 1985 provided quick bursts when the former got going, Sachin Tendulkar was the anchor in 2008, when the combination kept changing. The ability to detonate and take the game away midway onwards adds an edge to the current side. It’s not clear who will bat where, but the combined potential of Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma is fearsome and although against a poor attack, they have done their job this series.
While expressing satisfaction over the condition of fast bowlers and saying it’s the “best Indian seam attack headed for Australia in some time”, Bangar added the appetite shown by batsmen hasn’t gone unnoticed. In the seven ODIs at home after England, Indians have put together five centuries and 11 half-centuries. The team has crossed 300 thrice in the four matches they have batted first and in none of those occasions did the run rate cross six after 15 overs.
It’s important to note that these flattering figures came against attacks low on resources and motivation. Jerome Taylor and in the first spell in the first game of the ongoing series, Lahiru Gamage caused discomfort with movement and lift. Catches were dropped too. “These conditions don’t help bowlers. It’s important to take early wickets,” said Sri Lanka vice-captain Lahiru Thirimane. Before the landscape changes, Indians look good to prolong this trouble.