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Looking ahead with muted optimism

cricket Updated: Jun 12, 2009 00:45 IST
Arjun Sen
Arjun Sen
Hindustan Times
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England, The West Indies and South Africa. These are the three teams that stand in India’s way as they try and retain the World T20 title.

India’s SuperEights campaign kicks off on Friday at the Lord’s and this is where the going will get tough. Yet to play a genuine contender for the title, India’s run so far has been a breeze.

Ireland and Bangladesh were never really going to trouble MS Dhoni’s boys and neither did.

So, can India get past the Super Eights? Well, they are arguably the best T20 side team around. The batting has just the right blend of brawn and brains, with all the batsmen capable of transforming into power-hitters.

The bowling has room for improvement, with extra attention being reserved for the pacers. Not too much wrong with the spinners, though. Pragyan Ojha can’t do anything wrong at the moment, picking wickets every time he bowls, while writing off Harbhajan Singh is as fatal a mistake as not picking up his doosra.

What about the opposition? Who are the men MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten should watch out for?

West Indies

Strengths: One man. Chris Gayle. The coolest cricketer with his insanely big solitaires and stylish braids is also one of the best. He literally dumped Australia out of the Cup single-handedly, smashing an unbelievable 88 off 50 balls and could do it to the champions too.

Weaknesses: The bowling was all over the place against Sri Lanka. Made to look like club cricketers by Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Windies’ bowlers know they have to get their act together, and fast. The fielding, too, has been patchy.

England

Strengths: For a team that lost to the Netherlands, England should consider themselves lucky to even be here. That said, however, they completely outplayed Pakistan and will be in a buoyant mood coming into this stage.

It was Kevin Pietersen yet again who led the English revival, and he will be the man India need to be wary of. In Luke Wright, England have an all-rounder equally adept in both departments.

Weaknesses: England’s biggest enemy is England. They seem to have this innate ability of snatching defeat from victory. Their bowling doesn’t look like it has the ammunition to hit the Indian batting, though Stuart Broad and James Anderson have the knack of picking up big wickets.

South Africa

Strengths: A strong batting line-up, a bowling attack that has the right blend and perhaps the best fielding unit, it is hard to see beyond the Proteas as the biggest threat to India. They are the only side yet to lose a game, in the warm-ups and the group. Also, seem to be mentally stronger compared to most.

Weaknesses: Their history of choking on the big day will always give their opponents the belief that they have a chance. Would rather lose one in the SuperEights than the knockouts.

Hopefully, they have their bad day on June 16.