The Super Eights stage of the ICC World T20 has been really eventful so far. Sri Lanka’s super-over win notwithstanding, both matches on Friday stood out because of their intensity, even though Australia ran out consummate winners against India.
To be honest, when India finished with 140 in 20 overs, I thought it would be a close contest because MS Dhoni went in with three specialist spinners. But Shane Watson and David Warner’s 133-run opening wicket stand blew away India’s fightback whatsoever. Dhoni has blamed the rain just before the Australian innings started and according to me it’s a valid excuse.
Even a two-minute spell of rain can affect the pitch and the outfield. Rain drops bind the top soil and the natural rough is negated to a great extent. Any spinner wants the ball to grip and turn. The rain made the wicket very placid and that helped Watson and Warner go through with their big strokes with impunity. It was just bad luck for India.
India’s think tank was obviously swayed by the way the South African and Pakistan spinners got purchase on the Premadasa track in Friday’s first game. I was not surprised when Dhoni opted for three specialist spinners but leaving out Virender Sehwag was suicidal. I had written in my previous column that Sehwag remains a key member not only for his batting prowess but also for the fear factor that he brings in. I am sure the Australians were happy not to see Sehwag in the Playing XI.
I am not convinced about Irfan Pathan’s ability to open the innings. He may have scored 31 off 30 balls, but one of the openers must play a longer innings if the middle-order has to come good. After Gambhir was run out for a breezy 17 and Kohli, Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma left quickly, Pathan’s innings actually counted for nothing. As it turned out, India groped for runs in the final overs and probably ended 20 runs too few.
India is definitely missing a genuine quick bowler.
Look how Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc made an impact even on the slow deck in Colombo. How about giving Ashok Dinda a chance? He is close to 140 kmph, runs in hard and bowls a good line with a clever slower ball. Zaheer Khan must be feeling the heat with a nothing-special spell against the Aussies.
I am sure Dhoni will sort out his batting order quickly. The team may be short on confidence but the fact that it will be Pakistan on Sunday, India will be rejuvenated. That’s the magic of an India versus Pakistan encounter. It will be the match of the tournament and both teams will start afresh in what should be a high intensity game of skills and mind.
Pakistan, of course, will be on a high after that sensational win against the South Africans. The beauty of Pakistan’s cricket lies in its surprises. Who expected Pakistan to win a match when six of their best batsmen were back in the pavilion with 63 on board! Umar Akmal played a terrific knock and Umar Gul discovered once again that he can bat too. Against India, Pakistan will have to trust their ability and every player must play the role they are expected to.
I always feel Pakistan are bad chasers and unnecessarily invite pressure. They have the best attack in the World Cup and should logically defend a score than chase one. The spinners will have a lot to do on Sunday and hopefully, the rain will stay away.
(Wasim Akram is an ESPN-STAR Sports expert analyst)
Catch all the ICC World Twenty20 live action on www.espnstar.com/live