Having topped Group A, MS Dhoni’s India need to pull up their socks and plug in the loopholes when they take on Australia in their first ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights match at the Premadasa in Colombo on Friday.
On the eve of the match in a press conference, Dhoni hinted that he would go in with five bowlers. That means that one batsman has to be dropped, and though Dhoni did not reveal who the unlucky player would be, he admitted it would be his toughest decision.
Just who those five bowlers India pick is already a problem of plenty for India. In all probability it will be a three-prong spin attack with one fast bowler and Irfan Pathan as the allrounder. Harbhajan Singh made a strong comeback in the last match against England and is sure to play with two left-handers in the form of David Warner and Michael Hussey in the Australian team. Irfan’s bowling form and ability to open the innings mean he is a first-choice pick, leaving Zaheer Khan and L Balaji to fill the pace bowler’s slot. R Ashwin, who was rested in the England match, should return as the third spinner alongside Harbhajan and Piyush Chawla – the pair that spun a web around England.
MS Dhoni has boldly opted to play five bowlers against Australia, but the decision to drop a batsman is proving to be a mood-changer.
India have hassles with their batting too, namely the form of their openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. For five bowlers to play one batsman has to sit out, and rumors are rife that that man is Sehwag, who is going through a lean patch. In that scenario one of Irfan, Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma could be promoted to partner Gambhir, who himself needs runs to boost his confidence. Kohli is in unbelievable touch and Rohit – after a horror run of late – has hit form with three solid innings in Sri Lanka. Down the order, Dhoni and Suresh Raina provide the much needed firepower, but the Indian batsmen can be tested by the Australian bowlers with the short stuff. Pat Cummins has already stated Australia’s intent of bouncing out Raina, a batsman with short-ball woes, and though his half-century against England would have given Rohit some needed confidence, he will have his task cut out against Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson. Yuvraj Singh’s patchy form since returning from cancer is also a worry for India.
For George Bailey’s team, it has been a one-man show from Shane Watson who is presently in a destructive mode in the World Twenty20 and well supported by Warner and Hussey. The only concern for Australia would be that of their middle order, which is yet to be tested.
This match puts forward an interesting contest of India’s spinners and Australia’s pacers, as the batsmen on both sides have to put their best foot forward, which in itself throws a challenge to both the sides in a format that allows little time to settle down.
India: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Irfan Pathan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 R Ashwin, 11 Zaheer Khan/L Balaji
Australia: 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Michael Hussey, 4 Cameron White, 5 George Bailey (capt), 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Glenn Maxwell, 9 Brad Hogg, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Pat Cummins