Ashish Nehra has got to be played against Ireland today. He needs to be tested in this game whether India go with a 2-2 or 3-1 combination. Ashish, when he’s in form, is definitely a strike bowler for India and one with tremendous experience.
Frankly, you can’t assess his fitness or form if he doesn't play.The problem with that is, a few days down the line, we’ll be into the business end of the tournament and in two weeks' time, the quarterfinals begin. This is when teams need to start peaking and get their combination right. So, India's problem with their bowlers needs to be addressed now, in the game against Ireland, and also in the next one, against the Netherlands.
Chawla should play
I also think, if India play a second specialist spinner, it still needs to be Piyush Chawla. He brings added variety to the attack and it’s very difficult to drop someone after just one game. I also think the Irish will have problems picking his googly. But if he plays and doesn't perform, then Ashwin can get his chance in the next game.
Of course, nothing much will come out of it if India also do not raise the bar, substantially, in the fielding department.
India’s fielding has been shoddy and smacked of complacency and you just cannot afford to be that way in the World Cup.
You need to be ruthless in your approach in every single game and there’s no better way than being so against an Irish team.
While Ireland’s performance in chasing down nearly 330 against England was outstanding and unexpected, they are still not expected to beat India in front of a packed home crowd, especially if India play to potential. But India have not been playing to potential and, as I said, that's because of a combination of poor bowling and even poorer fielding.
You create that spirit of ruthlessness in play by taking it upon yourself. It is true that you tend to be more ruthless when you're defending a target lower than 300, because you don't have the comfort of runs.
But India need to start sending out a message. And as they have two of the more unfancied teams up next, that process should start now.
If India can be ruthless in beating the Irish on that same wicket, it sends out a clear message that the Indian juggernaut is up and rolling.
Shrug off pressure
There’s one more thing. A sub-continental team that plays badly at home, like Bangladesh did on Friday, will find it tough to come back in the tournament.
The stone-throwing incident shows that emotions riding on home sides are massive.
A team like Pakistan probably has the advantage here, of knowing the conditions well, yet playing away from home. And while Pakistani fans are no less emotional, the players will feel less pressure in the sense that they are not in the thick of it on home turf.
India just have to shrug off the pressure and do what they know, how they know, best. And they can do it.
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