India should not tinker with the batting order: Wadekar

March 19th, 2011 - 7:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh Mumbai, March 19 (IANS) Now that India have qualified for the World Cup quarter-finals, former India captain Ajit Wadekar feels that they are still the hot favourites to win the Cup they last won in 1983. He has a word of caution though — refrain from tinkering with the batting order unnecessarily.

Wadekar, who was India’s coach when the World Cup was played in the subcontinent last in 1996, said the co-hosts must be hugely relieved that they are no longer in a must-win situation ahead of their last Group B game Sunday against the West Indies.

Thanks to England beating the West Indies and South Africa’s massive victory over Bangladesh, the Indians are breathing easy.

Wadekar is not in agreement with Dhoni on fiddling with the batting order, particularly the way he has promoted explosive Yusuf Pathan up the order.

“I feel we should not shuffle the batting order. Yusuf (Pathan) is good at number 6 or 7 position. A batsman, used to a certain mindset of batting at a certain position, will take time to adjust to the new slot. It also gives the impression that something is amiss in the team, creating needless panic. I think it is better to avoid changing the order unnecessarily,” Wadekar told IANS here.

Wadekar, also a former chief selector, hoped that the team’s much-maligned bowling and fielding would improve in the knockout stage. Notwithstanding the drawbacks, he sees India as hot favourites.

“To me India are still the hot favourites. I think it is a balanced team, there is variety in the attack with a quality fast bowler in Zaheer Khan and spinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin. We have the best batting line-up. If only we could tighten our outcricket a bit, we are there,” he said.

Wadekar sees India’s loss to South Africa as a timely jolt ahead of the quarter-finals.

“The shocking defeat against South Africa will serve as a wake-up call. It is good to have such a loss before the knockout stage as it will bring the boys back to earth.

“The World Cup format is such that it was supposed to be a cakewalk for India to reach the quarterfinals and it is likely that the team has taken things a bit lightly. But after the defeat against South Africa, I hope to see a marked improvement in fielding and bowling.”

Wadekar also said that India’s top-order batsmen need to consistently fire to ensure that the bowlers have enough runs on the board to defend.

“India’s main strength is batting. If our top four batsmen click, it will put us in a strong position. The batsmen must ensure that they score more than 300 runs to give the bowlers a strong total to defend,” he said.

Wadekar, who captained India to their first series win in West Indies and England in 1971, is all praise for Sachin Tendulkar.

“He has been batting extremely well. It’s sad that his effort against South Africa went in vain. But now it is the turn of others to get the runs. (Virender) Sehwag needs to come up with a century, so should Gambhir. It is not that they are not scoring, but they need to get big scores.”

“Also, we have a cool captain in Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He has led the side to Twenty20 World Cup win. I can’t see why it can’t happen again.

The left-handed batsman said the One-Day International format hugely favoured the batsmen and that is why one need not be harsh on the bowlers.

“Cricket has always been a batsman’s game, especially in the subcontinent where we have flat pitches. Add the powerplays and everything favours the batsmen. In a limited- overs game anything can happen and you have to take a chance.”

Wadekar has favoured the inclusion of spinners in the side on the slow subcontinent pitches on which the role of the slow bowlers has increased.

He, however, said the selection should be made seeing the pitch.

“I think in Chennai the pitch is responsive to spin. Since we do not have express fast bowlers, I think we should go with spinners.”

Apart from India, defending champions Australia and Pakistan rank top on Wadekar’s list of favourites to win the Cup.

“Australia have come back strongly. They did well in the ODI series against England and have been winning all their matches. They are used to having these long winning stretches. We definitely can’t count them out.

“Also, the dark horse for me is Pakistan. They are the most unpredictable.”

Wadekar said India were confident of winning in 1996, but for the semifinal against Sri Lanka in Kolkata where the batsmen panicked after the pitch produced some deadly turn.

He lights up when asked about his standout memory of that edition.

“Beating Pakistan in the quarterfinal (at Bangalore) was one of the most memorable moments of the 1996 World Cup. We had scored 287 and we got Pakistan well short of the target. We batted extremely well. It is always special to beat Pakistan and that in India is even more.”

“We thought we could be the World Champions. But in the semifinals against Sri Lanka the pitch began to help the spinners and despite getting off to a good start, our players panicked. Hopefully, we can do it this time around,” he said.

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