India play WI in the last match of the league phase on Sunday. Here are some of my observations and thoughts regarding that game.
Indian team selection
I know I have said this for the past two games in vain. But for this game, I again say that Ashwin should play. I would make only one change to India's playing eleven, swap Nehra for Ashwin. Having seen the effect the England off-spinners had on WI today (they took 7 wickets between them), I hope that if Dhoni had any hesitation to play Ashwin, it would have been removed completely. Ashwin is from Chennai, and plays all his cricket at Chepauk where India will play WI. Sometimes, such bowlers can come up with little things based on their knowledge of the conditions, that could prove very valuable to the team.
WI team selection
I think Chanderpaul will come back for WI, but the difficult decision for Sammy will be regarding whom to drop. Their batting lineup looked weak, with Pollard slated at 5, and then the allrounders Sammy, Thomas and Russell. In today's England match, Sammy did a good job by making some changes to the batting order and made it look like they had a longish lineup. But the fact is, WI are playing with only 5 proper batsmen, out of which Gayle and Pollard are X-factors who could get out very early. Their bowling is ok, not too threatening. Roach needs to be watched bcos he can generate good speed and gets some movement as well. Russell is not consistent, he can produce a few wicket-taking deliveries, but gives at least one four-ball every over. Benn gets bounce with his height and is pretty accurate, but does not turn the ball much.
I was pretty impressed with Bishoo, the young leg-spinner who made his debut against England. He turns the leg-break and bowls in good areas, but I did not see much variation. He will be tested against the strong Indian batting lineup.
The toss was not too much of a factor in the Eng-WI game at the same ground. Dew was not a concern either. So it does not make too much of a difference if India bat first or second. But if Dhoni wins the toss, I reckon he should bat first, simply because WI can be put under pressure if India post a big total and take out Gayle early. Also the afternoon conditions provide no movement to the pacers, Roach in particular and Veeru, Sachin et al can simply hit through the line. WI just played today and play again in 3 days. Chennai is pretty warm at this time of the year and if WI have to field first again in 3 days, they could be tired and India should look to exploit that. These little things matter, and being arm-chair critics and fans, we can see it clearly and strategize accordingly. I hope Dhoni also uses his head and makes good decisions.
One thing I noticed in the Eng-WI match was that the pacers got some movement in the air and off the pitch from the 20th over to the 34th over. This is because the pitch was very dry and abrasive, which resulted in some reverse swing and seam movement. India should have noted that and should look to have Zak or Munaf, preferably Zak, bowl a few overs in that phase. After 34th over, the ball is changed and movement is not assured.
With the ball, India should definitely look to give the new ball to Ashwin. If he can take Gayle out early, WI can lose their way as it happened against England. The other danger man is Pollard. India should look to bowl very full, yorker-length to him mixed in with a few short ones aimed at his body. He will simply destroy length bowling, so that should be avoided at any cost. Yuvraj might be a good option against him, because Yuvi does not flight the ball too much, and skids on to the bat, so he could get Pollard out lbw or if Pollard tries to hit him, he may get a leading edge if the ball turns a bit, which Yuvi does get these days.
Another thing that Dhoni should avoid is shuffling the batting order. I badly want to see the original batting order for at least one match. Kohli was in great form coming into this tournament, now for no fault of his, he has a few failures against his name. I am sure he must be itching to have a good hit out there, so he must get the chance to bat at his normal position of number 4.
India should win this one. WI possess good talented crickets with a couple of match winners with the bat. But they are very brittle and for the opposition, there is always hope that they will collapse. So India should look to keep taking wickets as one wicket often leads to another quick one, with this WI team.
My next post will be after the India-WI game, so stay tuned.