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Return of the versatile Munaf Patel

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BACK IN THE FOLD: Munaf Patel’s ability to bowl well at any stage of a match will give Dravid more options.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Munaf Patel’s ability to bowl well at any stage of a match will give Dravid more options.

S. Dinakar

CRICKET / Sreesanth’s omission carries a clear message

Chennai: Munaf Patel has the ability to bowl effectively at any stage of an innings. He can achieve controlled movement with the new ball, can operate with precision in the middle-overs, and contain and strike with reverse swing at the death.

Once the selectors were convinced about Munaf’s recovery from a back strain that forced the paceman to return early from the tour of Bangladesh earlier this year, his return for the seven-match ODI series in England was on the cards.

He is versatile and can sting. Munaf wants to bowl fast again, but clever changes of pace, where the quicker ball can be a surprise weapon, will add to his repertoire without adversely affecting his consistency in the game’s shorter version.

Munaf has 26 wickets in 22 ODIs at a strike rate of 40.65, conceding 4.54 runs an over. These are creditable figures.

The Englishmen will not have happy memories of Munaf. The lanky paceman’s three for 18 off eight probing overs — the influential Kevin Pietersen was among his victims — was a match-winning effort during the ICC Champions Trophy clash in Jaipur last year.

By omitting Santhakumaran Sreesanth for the one-dayers against England, the selectors have sent a message to this talented but temperamental paceman: keep your emotions under check.

With his speed and outswing, Sreesanth can dent line-ups; he has 38 scalps in 29 ODIs at a strike rate of 37.

However, his economy rate of 5.66 will not leave his captain pleased.

Sreesanth’s statistics also indicate that the outswing bowlers are generally less effective in the ODIs; the slip cordon is often thinly manned and vital runs can leak through edges. Save the early phase, the ball darting in is invariably a bigger threat.

No surprises

The 15-member squad for the ODI series is on expected lines. India has the momentum in its favour after a 2-1 triumph over South Africa in Belfast but will need to address a key issue — the No. 3 slot.

The idea behind sending Gautam Gambhir at this position against South Africa in Belfast could not be faulted — the think-tank wanted an attacking batsman to pierce the infield during the Power Play overs in case one of the openers departed early. However, Gambhir’s returns of 0 and 5, and his mode of dismissals, suggested that he had a few technical issues, including the need to play closer to his body, to resolve.

Gambhir keeps his place, but Robin Uthappa might receive a run at No. 3 in England. The in-form and much-improved Subramanium Badrinath is desperately unlucky to miss out again.

By picking them for the Twenty20 World championship in South Africa, the selectors have handed over a lifeline to Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan. The emphasis here is on multi-dimensional cricketers, underlined by the selection of all-rounders Joginder Sharma, a paceman, and Yusuf Pathan, an off-spinner. Yusuf is also a heavy-hitting top-order batsman.

Workload issue

The wise men are seeking to manage the workload issue and this explains the resting of Zaheer Khan. However, the logic of fielding Piyush Chawla, a budding leg-spinner, in the Twenty20 format is open to question.

The spirited Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s elevation as captain is a positive move though.

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