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HindustanTimes Tue,29 Jul 2014
Ashwin-Bhajji contest could be a bonus for India
John Wright
September 10, 2012
First Published: 23:54 IST(10/9/2012)
Last Updated: 01:21 IST(11/9/2012)

You can't argue about the weather, and now India and New Zealand will be hoping for a game on Tuesday. Plan all you like but leading into a big tournament, nothing can replicate hard match practice. Although T20 has been around for some time and has given a fillip to our game, most of its main competitions are centered on domestic cricket. The IPL, perhaps, is an exception but even that has a strong domestic component. 

As late August 2010, the most T20Is have been played by Pakistan - 19. England played 14, Australia 13, New Zealand and South Africa 12. India played only eight in this period.

In the lead up to the World T20, there are three series taking place -- England vs South Africa, Australia vs Pakistan, and the New Zealand-India series. If the weather doesn't intervene again, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa and England will have played five competitive T20 internationals, including the two practice games preceding the tournament. 

India's lead up will include Tuesday's match and their two practice games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This means both India and New Zealand would have had three matches to sort things out if they are serious about winning T20 World Cup.

For India, their batting line-up is straightforward with more flexibility and experience than others in the competition. Team-wise, I expect India's top-seven to be Sehwag, Gambhir, Rohit, Virat, Yuvraj, Raina and Dhoni. You have to be careful in practice matches not to change things around too much as players need to know their roles, and get accustomed to performing them.

Interesting duel
India's bowling options are more interesting and one of the features of these three warm-up matches will be the inevitable competition and comparison between Harbhajan and Ashwin.

From a distance, Ashwin looks a real competitor but Harbhajan is one too. This competition for places could be a huge bonus for India as both players will be pushing each other for a spot. Even if they bowl the same variety of deliveries, the two of them could actually force their way into the team. In tandem and at their best, they will be a handful for any opposition.

Special moment
A lot of people have asked me how Yuvi will cope with the pressure and hype of his comeback. My answer is: After what Yuvi has been through, the word 'pressure' will have taken on a completely different meaning for him.

His performance with the ball could prove as important as with the bat because if he can bowl his overs consistently, he will give the side a wonderful balance. Sehwag is a limited-overs bowler, who is underrated. Any time a left hander arrives at the crease, he won't be far from my mind.

Key contest
New Zealand's batting line up could read Nicol, Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Taylor, Franklin, Williamson, Nathan McCullum and Vettori.

With their bowling, they may well go with three seamers because their next three opponents are India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all of whom, if given a choice, would rather face spin than seam.

This is an important game for both sides as the best way to enter any tournament is to have some consistent winning performances under your belt.

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