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World Cup: Drop Gautam, Piyush, fire up Harbhajan

india Updated: Mar 11, 2011 11:46 IST

This tournament is going to be won by the team that looks to take wickets, led by a brave captain. MS Dhoni is the shrewdest captain in the tournament, so therefore it makes sense to give him plenty of firepower.

The taking of wickets is important in the middle overs, as India found to their chagrin against England. At times, Harbhajan Singh drops too easily into containment mode, especially if he doesn’t claim an early scalp. While this can be handy in a crisis, taking wickets must be the number one priority.

In the case of Piyush Chawla, who Dhoni seems intent on playing, he’s shown his best form (apart from the warm-up match with Australia), bowling against the minnows. The minnows will be absent once the knockout stage is reached.

By playing R Ashwin instead of Chawla, India will give their skipper more options. Against the major teams, Ashwin can be used in the early powerplay overs and he's also a likely wicket-taker in the middle overs. He’s also a tougher competitor than Chawla and will put up a fight for his wicket when he bats.

The Indian World Cup campaign is on track but that doesn’t mean the line-up couldn’t do with a bit of tweaking to make it even more competitive against the major sides.

In a drawn out tournament like this World Cup with such variation in the opponents class, the important thing is to be totally prepared for the knockout stage. In this regard India has missed a few tricks along the way.

They appear too top heavy in steady batsmen with Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli being over-kill. That smacks of being worried that against the strong pace attacks of South Africa and Australia they might need to rebuild their innings after losing a couple of early wickets.

When you prepare for the worst it generally happens.

If India must go with a long batting line-up they’d better play Kohli at 3 and then replace Gambhir with Suresh Raina in the middle-order. Kohli is capable of handling the loss of an early wicket and he is also a better fielder than Gambhir, plus he gives you another bowling option.

Raina at six or seven would give India an explosive middle-order. Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and Raina is a destructive trio that no other team can match, plus once again Raina improves the fielding and is also another bowling option. Fielding will make a difference in the latter stages of this tournament. When quizzed the other day on improving the Indian fielding, Dhoni said; “The fast fielders will remain quick and the slow ones will still be slow.”

Dhoni's logic is irrefutable but the fielding can be improved by tweaking the line-up, as long as the run scoring capabilities of the side isn't harmed.

In addition, as I mentioned above, India need to improve the wicket-taking capacity of the team. Judging by results, India is prepared for the big clash with South Africa.

However, they could be an even more dangerous opponent if they select their most versatile combination.