We are almost at that day when the 2011 World Cup will begin and the first match is a big one - India vs Bangladesh at Mirpur. The excitement is beginning to build, and I thought it is the right time for me to post some thoughts on the game.
India team composition
Just like all fans of Indian cricket, I have also read all articles on websites, particularly Cricinfo, regarding the possible Indian starting eleven. It looks like Virat Kohli will be picked over Suresh Raina. This gives India a pretty strong batting lineup of Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan. It is a very strong lineup on paper, and should be able to get them to a big total or chase down a big total.
That leaves 4 slots in the starting lineup for bowlers. Harbhajan and Zaheer are sure starters. The only spots up for grabs are 10 and 11. I am a bit divided in my opinion whether we should go with 3 fast bowlers and 1 spinner, or 2 pacers and 2 spinners. Bangladesh play spin quite well, since they are brought up on such tracks and Mirpur is expected to be a typical Bangla wicket, slow and low and conducive to spin. By that token, 2 spinners would be the way to go. But on the other hand, they could be attacked with pace since it is not their strong point. This would indicate 3 pacers, with Munaf Patel and probably, Ashish Nehra backing up Zaheer in the pace department.
But as I mentioned in my earlier post, pace bowling is not our strength, other than Zaheer. So on a typical Bangla wicket, our second and third pacers could go for runs. I did not check the weather conditions in Mirpur, but if it has rained in the recent past, or if excessive dew is expected in the night, three pacers may be the way to go. Otherwise, two pacers and two spinners should be in the starting lineup.
If we go with two spinners, on current form, I am tempted to pick Piyush Chawla over Ashwin, to partner Harbhajan. Ashwin has a definite role in the power plays, but with Yusuf in the team for this match, he can be expected to do that role if needed. Piyush brings variety to the spin attack with his leg breaks and googlies, and he is quite confident at the moment about his bowling and it is showing in his performances.
Take the bull by the horns, should be the strategy that India should adopt. They should come hard at Bangladesh, whether with bat or ball. I am sure Zaheer will have made some plans for his tormentor from the last World Cup, Tamim Iqbal. If he gets Tamim out early, and I have a hunch that it will happen, then India can breathe a lot easier. I would like to see Yusuf open the bowling at the other end with Zaheer. That will save India's second pacer for the bowling power play and throw the opposition off balance a bit. It will also be a test of Tamim Iqbal's abilities, since I suspect with his batting style and approach, he will prefer to have pace on the ball in the initial overs.
Yuvraj will be a key component for India in the middle overs, not just in this match, but for the entire World Cup. He should be able to give the team 7-8 good overs almost every game. Harbhajan is bowling well at the moment, but should continue to operate in this attacking mode, not in the defensive mode that he sometimes switches to, especially in the one-day format.
Regarding batting, I really like the lineup India has. Sachin is in the form of his life, and is now making runs quickly without taking too many risks. Sehwag is showing that he wants to play long innings and is prepared to bide his time before hitting out. Gambhir and Kohli are similar in style to each other, batting anchors looking to bat through the innings but maintaining a strike rate of 80-plus. They are followed by Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan, who can all hit the ball a long way.
I am happy to see that Dhoni has not forgotten how to hit sixes and score quickly, since he had transformed into some kind of anchor batsman who was interested mainly in taking singles. With Gambhir, Kohli and Sachin in the line-up, India need Dhoni to do what he did in his initial years, otherwise they will be a team of batsman with an average strike rate of 80 to 85, and some simple math will tell you that this will only give 240-250 runs per game, which in today's world, will not win them many matches :)
This batting line-up should back themselves to chase down even scores close to and in excess of 300. But Bangladesh are fighters and are playing at home, so they should not be taken lightly at all.
I think India should win this one and an upset of 2007 World Cup proportions, looks unlikely.
As always, I welcome comments and discussion. My next post will contain my thoughts and analysis after the match, so stay tuned.