By Wasim Akram
Twenty-twenty cricket may be a game of glorious uncertainties, but the basic tenets of cricket can never be discounted. The balance of any team is a key factor in determining an outcome of a contest and India would have realised that after an ironical exit from the ICC World T20.
After watching India in five matches in Colombo, I am not sure if the MS Dhoni-Duncan Fletcher combination was picking the right team in every match. I am puzzled with the way the Indian team management has picked playing XIs. For example, I feel a wicket-taking bowler like Harbhajan Singh was missed against the ragged South Africans on Tuesday night.
There is a lesson in every defeat. For India, there are genuine concerns about its bowling and of course, top order batting. A team is world class only when it is complete in every respect. India’s batting is one of the strongest in the world, but if you are expecting Zaheer Khan or a Lakshmipathy Balaji to win you a tight match every day, think again. Giving Balaji the last over against South Africa was suicidal. A bowler on a comeback is always short of confidence and I think India were lucky to win by a run on Tuesday night.
I have said before that Zaheer has to choose the format of cricket he wants to play. I can’t see him running in hard every ball and bamboozling batsmen with pace and movement. India must find replacements and very soon at that. India need fresh legs and stronger shoulders because they will be playing a series of matches at home from November.
Where is Umesh Yadav? And Varun Aaron seems to be a forgotten name. With the new selection committee in place, both Umesh and Varun should be groomed to power India’s pace battery. I hear Varun is injured. I think the BCCI needs to get after him and pull him out of his problems. At least Umesh should have been in the T20 squad.
India’s opening combination has been a problem off late. Gautam Gambhir was sketchy and Virender Sehwag unpredictable. No matter what, I am still a Sehwag fan. He is still a bombshell and till India have a definite replacement, Sehwag cannot be ignored.
The only reason why teams like Sri Lanka and Australia have made the semis is because their top order has come good. Shane Watson, David Warner and Mike Hussey have been Australia’s batting mainstay, the same way Dilshan, Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have held Lanka together. If any one of the top three plays 20 overs, a team is in safe zone.
Pakistan will prove to be handful to Sri Lanka in the first semis on Thursday. It will be a fierce contest as both teams possess quality spinners. The Lankans will again expect their top three to come good. Man-for-man, Pakistan have the ability to win the contest. They bat fairly deep and have a few cool heads to hold the innings in the middle. Lanka’s middle order remains a worry.
On form, Australia look quite settled. Don’t read much into Tuesday’s defeat against Pakistan. For the Aussies, they will be up against only one man – Chris Gayle. West Indies are nothing without Gayle and it has been proved once again in this tournament. But the luck factor has been with the Caribbeans and in the 20-20 format that will make West Indies a dangerous proposition!
(Wasim Akram is an ESPN-STAR Sports expert analyst)