Will India rise to the occassion

June 13, 2009

We are at the business end of the second T20 World Cup and on the evidence of the way India has played till date there is precious little to suggest the tag of favorites. South Africa and to a certain extent, Sri Lanka have played the best cricket so far. There is no denying that India are missing Sehwag. His explosiveness up front in the batting order and equally importantly, his few overs of canny off spin bowling would have been very useful for the balance of the team. His unavailability has severely dented the options that are available to Dhoni. All told, we are still a team that relies heavily on indivdual brilliance to win us matches and Sehwag is one of our most talismanic match winners.

The other factors which I believe are hampering the performance of the team:

1. An additional right hand bowling option is being denied to the team. A majority of the Indian faster bowlers are left handed. Irfan is sneaking into the team more as an all rounder and this may not have been the case if Sehwag is around. Most importantly, this is keeping R P Singh, who in my opinion should be a shoo in, out of the playing eleven. India is suffering without a viable bowling option at the end of the innings and during the IPL, R P has consistently proved that he is one of the best death bowlers around.

2. The pressure on Gautam Gambhir has increased manifold at the top of the order. India’s success over the last few months was thanks to the consistency of Gautam and the role of Sehwag in this partnership goes beyond the quantum of his individual statistical contribution. It is all fine to say that a team should move beyond individuals and reliance on star power, but all one needs to do is to look at the performance of the Australian team over the same period and the fallacy of this statement becomes so very apparent.

3. I firmly believe that Ishant Sharma is still not experienced or mature enough to be playing T20 cricket for India. He struggled during the IPL as well and someone like Praveen Kumar or R P would be the safer bet. There is no denying that Ishant is a special talent and everything should be done to nurture him. But asking him to bowl a few overs in a format when batsmen are relishing the extra pace and are not afraid of throwing their bats around may not be the most ideal way of doing this.

4. Yusuf Pathan is not being used creatively enough. I felt that the match against the West Indies was a good enough opportunity as any to try him out at the top of the order. It was to be expected that the West Indian pacemen would come on hard against the Indian and given the brute power of the man, the odds of the ball flying away during the power play, edges and all, are significantly better.

5. The Indian bowling borders on the mediocre if Zaheer and Harbhajan have an off day. In the present line up with the exception of Zaheer, no one seems capable of bowling the yorker length. As we have seen, Ishant is dangerous bowling the back of length deliveries at a good pace and getting the ball to climb. Unfortunately, the pitches so far have not allowed him to do this effectively. All the more reason that R P should find a place in the eleven. For the team to be successful, I see only one place in the eleven between Yusuf and Irfan. Playing both of them is a luxury that we can ill afford.

The unpredicatibility of the format notwithstanding, the 2009 T20 Champtionship provides a great opportunity for the present Indian team under Dhoni to script an epochal chapter in history. Seldom has an Indian team not succumbed to the pressure of the favorites tag. This team under Captain Cool has made it amply clear that they do not much care for history and are here to blaze a trail. Intentions amount to very little unless they are backed by consistent execution. And for the team to be able to do this it is important that the eleven best capable of doing this are picked.


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