India’s problems with their batting order have impacted their output at the back end of an innings. Boundaries are in short supply and so are the players who are capable of clearing them. The precision shown by South Africa’s bowlers have complicated those problems further. With India 1-2 down, a loss in Chennai would mean they lose the five-match ODI series. So, offspinner Harbhajan Singh has said, the team has discussed a workaround: sustained, steady run-scoring.
“The odd boundary will come. No bowler is so perfect that they can keep on bowling six balls at one length and at one line,” Harbhajan said. “But if we are looking to just hit boundaries, then we are actually missing out on a lot of singles, and that’s what has been discussed. We will look to take a lot of singles, rotate strike from the first over to the last over. So we just need to be a little smarter. Obviously, as I said, we have got so much quality in our team that we can score runs on any sort of track. They are all performers, they have won games for India. It’s just a matter of time. It could be tomorrow.”
The need for such adjustments have stemmed from the change in ODI rules. In October 2012, the ICC reduced the number of fielders outside the 30-yard circle from five to four. As a result 50-over scores ballooned past 350, with the balance skewed heavily in favour of the batsmen. That forced the ICC to revert to having five fielders outside the 30-yard circle this June. When asked about this specific change, Harbhajan said India had to shift their focus from going for big hits to putting in the hard yards.
“Obviously when we play with certain rules for three-four years, we get used to them and you look to hit a lot of boundaries. Instead of looking to hit boundaries, we need to look to rotate strike in between those overs.”
Conversely, Harbhajan said the Indian bowlers, especially spinners, will have keep the lid on South Africa. “We are looking to put pressure on them and not give easy singles. If they are looking to go over the top, that is fine by us,” he explained. “We want to take wickets as a spinning unit and whoever is bowling at any point of time, we want to attack. We want to have a lot of catching fielders in place. In that process, you will go for boundaries here and there. But at the same time, if you pick up a wicket, you control the game. That is our agenda.”
Falling behind in the series and failing to put in consistent performances puts the spotlight on the captain. But Harbhajan indicated it is up to the entire team to lighten the responsibility on MS Dhoni. “It’s each and every one’s responsibility to look into their game and come up with a plan for what needs to be done and what they are doing in the middle and what they can do better to make the team win,” Harbhajan said. “I just want to say one thing that the team will be going all out to win the game tomorrow and from there onwards, hopefully we will put up another good performance. Things can be different in one week’s time.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.