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India must turn it right before the big ones

india Updated: Mar 09, 2011 00:02 IST
N Ananthanarayanan

A glance at the wicket-takers' list in this World Cup confirms the tournament is being played in the sub-continent with two spinners - Shahid Afridi and South Africa's Imran Tahir - topping the charts.

South Africa, usually wedded to pace, have gone to the extent of opening the bowling with spin, and have been rewarded. However, as India inch towards the final stages of the league phase, bowling, and spin, are areas that have come under close scrutiny.

Spinners a worry
While MS Dhoni appears to have settled into playing two seamers and two specialist slow bowlers, the spinners are yet to demonstrate they can take on the attacking, wicket-taking role that will be crucial going forward.

On the eve of the match against the Netherlands, Dhoni was mindful of the fact that the bowling needs to settle down quickly.

While Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh, with his part-time spin, have played lead roles with the ball so far, India is unsure about the specialist spin pairing after leggie Piyush Chawla went for runs in the last two games.

Bhajji concerns
That Harbhajan Singh has been a holding, rather than wicket-taking, option has not helped iron out the bowling concerns. Wednesday's game should give an indication whether offie R Ashwin will be in the scheme of things.

Dhoni refused to blame any bowler but suggested the team cannot afford to allow batting partnerships to blossom.

"We would like to improve a bit in bowling, especially when a batsman gets set, on how to get him out, put pressure on that particular batsman, push him to play a big shot and eventually get him out," he told a media conference.

Asked about Harbhajan, who has taken just two wickets from 29 overs in the three games, Dhoni said: "I don't mind who is taking the wickets or scoring the runs as long as the team is winning, and playing consistent cricket.

"To target a bowler and say this is the particular bowler who is supposed to get us wickets is a little bit difficult. The bowlers, they are also under pressure."

Include Ashwin
However, former India spinner Maninder Singh said Harbhajan should aim for wickets rather than restrict runs.

"His job is basically to take wickets. The captain and coach will have to tell him. India while bowling are basically playing the waiting game, instead of taking wickets.

"Ashwin has to be in the team. He can bowl with the new ball, bowl in the powerplay overs and he always gets wickets."