Here are my thoughts on the upcoming India match with Netherlands.
As I mentioned in the review of the Ireland match, Ashwin should have played in that one. Anyway, now that Dhoni gave another chance to Piyush and he failed badly, it is looking very likely that Ashwin will play against Netherlands. Another change I would like to see is Raina in place of Sachin or Sehwag. It would be nice to see what Raina can bring in to this side, and though he did not play well in SA and might be short of confidence, this is the perfect time to try him out and get him match-fit and ready if he is needed in the future. He also provides an extra bowling option to Dhoni and will improve the fielding as well.
One other change I would like to see is Nehra in place of Zaheer. Zak needs a rest and Nehra can be tried out for the same reason as Raina, to get him match-fit and ready to play if needed. Practice in the nets and hanging out with the team will never replace actually bowling in the middle and it is important that all our players are ready to play, so trying all of them out is good.
Once again, bowling first is the way to go for India, in my opinion. The Delhi track plays slow and low of late, so it would be a good idea to bowl first, and keep Netherlands to a low score using the many spinners at our disposal. Then once we have a target, the batsmen can look to have a dash to get there as quickly as possible and improve the net run rate. The NRR is going to have an important part to play in Group B, which looks very open at this point. So numbers 1 and 2, and possibly 3, may be decided on the NRR. So India should definitely have an eye on that if they want to finish in the top 2 among the group.
Also, if Ashwin plays, Dhoni should look to give him the new ball. He is an attacking bowler and could get us early wickets, which will put more pressure on the Netherlands team. Also, this is the match to try out this strategy since it appears to be the way forward for India in this World Cup. When a lot of other teams are trying it with success, I cannot understand why India has not tried it yet. Anyway, it was nice to see Dhoni try out the strategy somewhat in the Ireland by giving Yusuf the 4th over. Also, in Ashwin, they have a bowler who likes bowling in the first powerplay and is suited to do so as well. If Dhoni can give Ashwin the super over in the IPL (remember the match against KKR in IPL 3 which went to the super over and instead of giving it to Bollinger or Murali, Dhoni chose to give it to Ashwin who went for lot of runs and cost Chennai the match ?), then it is a no-brainer to open with him in Indian conditions.
Netherlands players to watch
Ryan ten Doeschate is the one world-class player they have. He got a hundred against England in this WC and Netherlands ran them pretty close in that match. They also have a couple of decent spinners, Peter Seelaar is a good one to watch, a left-arm spinner with a good economy rate over about 25 matches. Bas Zuiderant is a talented batsman. I remember him playing for Netherlands in the 1996 World Cup in the sub-continent as a very promising 18-year old.
Summary and prediction
India should win this one comfortably. I would be keenly watching the performance of Ashwin and also Raina and Nehra if they play. If India can improve their NRR and get a good performance from Ashwin, it would be a completely satisfying game.
Lets hear it from you all out there. I know this is one of the less important games for India in this WC, but we can still chat about it and discuss about the other, bigger games coming up.
My next post will be after the Netherlands game. So stay tuned.