This World Cup was supposed to provide the life support to the 50 over format, which was dying quickly. And the last few games have not only made it stand up on its feet again, they have made ODIs run like Usain Bolt !!
When the WC started, the India-Ireland was supposed to provide no more than practice to the mighty Indian team and there was little interest in the contest itself. Now, after what happened in the last 2 ODIs at Bangalore, this match is being looked at in some quarters as a match between almost equally matched teams and I am sure there are several people who are praying that Ireland dont beat India and hope that India can somehow eke out 2 points from this game. Let us look at the upcoming game in more detail.
Indian team selection
One change I would definitely make is, bring Ashwin in place of Chawla. Ashwin deserves to be tried out to see what he can bring to this weak bowling lineup and this is the right time to do it. If India had beaten England comfortably or if England had won easily over Ireland, I would have recommended resting Zaheer for this game. But since both events did not happen, I think Zak needs to play this one. He is due for a rest, but we can rest him for the game against Netherlands. In any case, there has been 1 week of rest after the previous game, so his body should be ready to go. The Netherlands game is 3 days after this one, so it makes sense to rest him for that one instead.
The other change I recommend would be to bring in Raina for Sehwag if Viru is even at 90% fitness. He has gone to Delhi to consult a doctor regarding some rib injury, so it makes sense to rest him for this match and try out Raina.
India should look to win the toss and bowl first. Having seen that teams batting second are chasing down totals of 330-odd pretty easily, we should look to bowl first, use the slowness of the pitch and try and restrict Ireland to a total around 250-270. If we bat first, I dont think any total looks safe at the moment. This Indian team may probably get another score around the 350 run mark, but then we need to change things a little in the bowling that was done badly in the England match.
One thing that should be tried out, is opening the bowling with a spinner. If Ashwin comes in, he is the obvious choice to open the bowling. He bowls well in the powerplays and has a few variations that can be useful. Besides, he is an attacking bowler, so there is a good chance he will get us a couple of early wickets.
Also, the field placements have to be spot on. Dhoni faltered badly in that department in the England match. Here, he should look to have the inner ring fielders close to the bat so that the batsmen cannot take singles every time. If Raina and Ashwin come in, we will have 7 good fielders and only 3 slow movers, unlike the England game where we had 5 and 5. I hope Indian think tank would have closely watched the England-Ireland game, so that they can learn about the Irish batsmen and make plans for each batsman in terms of where to bowl and what fields to set.
One more thing I would like to mention is the timing of the batting powerplay. I have noticed that a lot of teams have not taken this at the right time. They have either taken it a little later than the ideal time, or simply taken it blindly after the ball change in the 34th over. In my opinion, the best time to take the batting powerplay is between the overs 30 and 40, especially when you have two batsmen who are set and middling the ball well. If you enter the 32nd or 33rd over and have 2 batsmen who are middling the ball well, that is the best time to take the powerplay. Teams should not think too much at that point, just go ahead and take it.
Ireland players to watch
Kevin O Brien is definitely one to watch, especially after his blistering hundred against England. His brother Niall O Brien is also a good batsman who is the keeper as well. The openers are Porterfield, the captain and Stirling. Porterfield is a solid bat and Stirling is somewhat of a basher. So they could be dangerous. Ireland bat deep, with Trent Johnston at number 8 also being a capable bat who can get a few quick runs.
Among bowlers, Boyd Rankin is a very tall guy who will get bounce, but has not been having a great WC so far. Their main spinner Dockrell is a pretty good left-arm spinner who appears to have a good loop and varies his lengths well.
Summary and prediction
India should win this one, but Ireland cannot be taken lightly and could give a tough fight. However, sometimes the smaller teams perform miracles in one game and then tend to relax a little, because they are still floating in air with the previous performance. India should look to pounce on Ireland if they start off a little relaxed and should really attack them hard from ball one, whether it is with bat or ball.
My next post will be after the game, hopefully after an Indian win.
Lets hear your comments.