India are just about alive in the 5-match ODI series against New Zealand after the third match ended in a tie on Saturday at Auckland. With the final two ODIs a must-win for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to avoid a second successive overseas series loss, fears are growing over the poor form of India's top order batsmen. (Match report)
Despite another failure from the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina, Team India went on to score 314 in a tricky 315-run chase at Eden Park. This, thanks to another fifty under pressure from skipper Dhoni and astonishing half-centuries from Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. (Highlights)
Where Dhoni, in the post-match ceremony wanted Ravichandran Ashwin to bat through till the end to take India home, former India batsman Sunil Gavaskar feels that rather than expecting the lower middle order to pull things off, one must question the top-order, who once again failed. (Scorecard)
"It is because of Ashwin and Jadeja that India got close to the target. Their big shots helped avoid India an embarrassing defeat. Of course, with their form at that moment, you'd expect them to go all the way but it is the top order who failed to get the big hundreds and the fifties. Rather than criticizing Ashwin and Jadeja, one must complement them for giving hope that India can win," Gavaskar told NDTV from Auckland. (Pics)
When asked whether India's decision to opt for fielding first in their last 20 games outside the sub-continent is showing Dhoni's lack of confidence on his bowlers, the 64-year-old batting legend said, "possibly yes, because you don't feel that the bowlers will be up to it. However, when your bowlers are already giving 250-plus runs on more occasions, you are putting pressure on your batsmen to chase the big targets down each time. It is much better for the batsmen to bat without the pressure of an asking rate. They might actually get you 350 or more which will at least give your bowlers extra cushion of runs. It is something that India need to look at in the next couple of games if they have to stay alive in the series," he said in an exclusive chat.
Gavaskar, one of the best opening batsmen of his time, said that the Indian openers don't get enough time to get settled into an innings and play freely later on while chasing. Both Dhawan (28) and Rohit (39) were out playing miscued aerial strokes in Auckland.
"The Indian openers are under the pressure of playing their shots too early because of the number of runs they are chasing. They don't have the luxury of playing themselves in. That's the reason I feel that India, whenever they win the toss should opt to bat first, when their batsmen are under no pressure and give themselves time to play freely. Look at the way India did well in their famous T20 wins (2007 World Cup) and the ICC Champions Trophy, where they defended a smallish total of 120-odd. So when you are 2-0 down in the series, you should give your team a chance to perform without any added pressure," he added.
As far as changes in the Indian batting line-up for the next game are concerned, Gavaskar does not think so. "With the next game a crucial do-or-die game, I don't think any out-of-form batsman in the XI will be dropped because they have their past performances which are backing them. They'll get a longer rope," he said.