India's finisher conundrum in ODIs: Who are the players that can take over the job?
Till at least a year ago, when the likes of Australia, South Africa and England were hunting for players like Lance Klusener, Michael Bevan or Michael Hussey, whom the cricketing world calls as 'Finishers', the Indians were happily winning tight games with up to 15 runs to chase in the last overall thanks to their agricultural finisher and captain, MSD.
Now, Australia found a certain James Faulkner, New Zealand found Corey Anderson, England has the dynamic Jos Buttler and South Africa, David Miller (of course, ABD is the opener, finisher and tail-ender for them). Suddenly, India find themselves unable to win tight chases, like they used to before.
Whether it is the waning prowess of their superhero MS Dhoni or the collective failure of their batting order is being debated in all nook and corner of the nation. Whatever the reason be, the fact remains that India are no longer guaranteed wins in tight chases in ODIs. After the recent mess up of a run chase in Rajkot against South Africa in the third match of the ODI series, Dhoni commented that India needed finishers to win these kind of games.
"We are looking for batsmen to play at Nos 5, 6 and 7. Till they play there, we won’t know who is a good bet over there. And we are looking to give chances as well so it’s a tricky one." Dhoni said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
So the question comes to whether India lack the firepower in the domestic circuit or if India already has finishers capable of doing a Dhoni-esque job at the fag of the innings. Looking into the current ODI squad for the New Zealand series and keeping aside Dhoni, there are very few players who can be called finishers. Of the lot, Suresh Raina, Axar Patel, Hardik Pandya and Kedhar Jadhav are players capable of doing the job at 6-7 positions.
Raina, the heir to the throne
Suresh Raina, according to Dhoni, is the man to do the job, though has been found out against the short ball far too often, so much so that he accumulated a total of three runs in the ODI series against South Africa at an average of 1.00.
More worrying than the runs is the manner in which Raina was dismissed by the South Africans. Surely, the Indians haven't forgotten how Mitchell Johnson, similar to Morkel, roughed him up in the ODI series in India some time back. It has become worryingly easy for bowlers to control and dismiss Raina that his reputation as the next Dhoni is non-existent at the moment. He is pretty lucky to be back in the mix.
We now come to Stuart Binny who has done the hitting job somewhat decently for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. But has he molded himself into an international cricketer? That is up for debate. His 32 run over off Evin Lewis has seen him ousted from the ODI squad. He would need some solid domestic performances to get back into a tightly packed Indian squad.
Binny's List A record doesn't scream out either, in terms of numbers. Inspite of a strike rate above 90, he is yet to register a hundred and averages in the mid-20s. The Indian is not a first when it comes to being mediocre in international cricket after doing the job in domestic. Remember Mark Ramprakash?
Rayudu, a finisher?
Ambati Rayudu. The man Dhoni refused to give strike to in the final over of a tight run chase. True, he deserved more than that. But, is he a finisher? More of an accumulator I'd say. That said, the man certainly deserves a better run in the ODI side after some decent performances and has certainly got a raw deal from the selectors.
His ODI record thus far is pretty impressive with an average of 50.23 after 34 matches with two hundreds and 6 half centuries. A strike rate in the 70s seems to be the only criteria that could have kept him out of the squad, though it seems rather unfair.
That can wait, though. But finisher? Nope.
Axar Patel, not so promising
Axar Patel, despite doing a bit in the IPL hasn't provided enough evidence of his prowess with the willow to discuss if he is a tail-ender or finisher. A highest score of 17* in 15 innings does not justify the talent he possesses with the bat. His bowling has also been below par and it has to be said that he is a tad lucky that the selectors thought Ashwin and Jadeja needed a bit of a break.
His List A record is decent for a guy in the lower order. He strikes at a rate of 95.62 and has a highest score of 93. But until and unless he showcases some of that potential in this series against the Kiwis, Axar will find it hard pressed to return to the limited overs setup.