For his tirade against Virender Sehwag, Greg Chappell still did pay tribute to the opener at the end. "If Dhoni and the selectors have decided that enough is enough and that they have a better chance of winning the World Twenty20 without him (Sehwag), I reckon the Australian bowlers will breathe
a little easier on Friday," he signed off in his column in which he targetted the explosive batsman.
Captain MS Dhoni's decision to play five bowlers has its merits but whether India's best chance of winning the tournament lies without Sehwag is debatable.
If they don't have to contend with the X-factor the Delhi dasher brings into the equation, Australia's bowlers certainly would breathe easy in the game against India.
The analysis of India's tournament record shows there is little logic in resting Sehwag for the opening Super Eights tie. Sehwag has played only one World Twenty20 and India won it in 2007, where he and Gambhir had provided the team with brisk starts in four of the big games. Compare it to the team's dubious record of not winning a single Super Eights game in the last two editions held in England (2009) and the West Indies (2010).
Sehwag missed both those tournaments while the rest of the batting line-up has remained constant. Leave aside talk of ringing in a change to turn things around, India could lose the psychological edge Sehwag's mere presence would provide while opening with Irfan Pathan looks a decision fraught with risks.
Against the sharp Aussie pace attack, it might be too much to ask of Pathan to take on the new ball, with all the talk of chin music in the air. The pace battery of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Shane Watson and Daniel Christian are sure to produce plenty of short stuff.
If the gamble comes off, it will look like a masterstroke but if things don't work out, it is sure to add to the pressure on Dhoni.
"We most probably will play with five bowlers, but what combination, it all depends on conditions and the wicket, which will be a fresh one. It also depends on how the wicket will be before the match tomorrow," Dhoni said.
He did admit it will be a gamble to drop a top batsman. "Definitely it's one of the toughest decisions I've taken so far but we have to see what fits the combination the best. We will have to wait and watch but it will have to be a good decision. Ultimately, that's what matters."
Looking at the form of his bowling attack, the think-tank is expected to shed their three-pace attack formula. With Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla producing impressive performances against England, the captain is inclined towards playing three spinners, led by R Ashwin.
In all probability, the key battle will be fought early in the Australia innings. The Indian spinners will find the Shane Watson- David Warner pairing a different kettle of fish compared to the spin-wary Englishmen.
If they get quickly past the opening duo, they will be up against Mike Hussey. All three are strong against spinners and have gained in experience from their IPL stints.
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