“This is an important game for us, we are under a bit of pressure,” said MS Dhoni. Over to his Pakistan counterpart, Misbah-ul-Haq’s take: “We realise winning this series is very important for us, and we will put in all we have to achieve our goal.”
The words may not convey the difference in the intensity and determination the captains spoke with - and any attempt towards that end would leave one open to accusations of nitpicking. Yet, truth be told, the Pakistan skipper sounded much more assured and confident on the eve of the game that’s must-win for India.
While Misbah talked about how “the team has played well throughout the series” and how confident they were heading into the game, the India skipper spoke about the team going through a transitional phase.
“If you see, we are going through a transitional period, even in the ODIs. Our regular bowlers in the ODIs are injured and hence we are a little short on experience there. Batting has been a bit of a problem, that’s one area where we should have been good. That sometimes happens, but perhaps this is the best time for them to hit form and come good,” said Dhoni.
The new rules too seem to have pushed the India skipper into a “catch-22 situation”. Rightly so, as the new rule affects India more adversely than Pakistan. The reason being, India play with just four specialist bowlers, while Pakistan have far more depth in their bowling.
With a maximum of just four men allowed on the boundary at any given time throughout the game, India’s dependence on part-timers could cost them dear.
No wonder, the India skipper sounded quite confused about how to strike a right balance in the playing eleven.
“People will say if six batsmen can’t do the job for you, even seven won’t. But if we didn’t have the seventh batsman in the last game, we might have been 120 all out. “But then, of course, it’s equally difficult to play with (a) part-timer, especially if he has to bowl 10 overs,” said the confused captain.
The only option the India skipper has, theoretically, to bolster his bowling without weakening the batting is the inclusion of all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. However, Jadeja’s left-arm spin is nowhere close to Mohammad Hafeez, who lends Pakistan a wonderful balance with his aggressive batting at the top and quality spin bowling.
In the new rules, Dhoni also saw a potential threat to batsmen who could get tempted to play big shots with just four men on the boundary.
In what could be a veiled message to his batsmen for not showing the required application in the last game, he stressed on the need to stay on the wicket.
“Everyone feels it’s important to plunder as many runs as possible in the first 10 overs and power plays. But with the new rule, with just four fielders outside, you can take time to get set and still put up a big total,” he said.
With rules being what they are, India will need to find a way around them to keep the series alive till the third One-dayer at the Ferozshah Kotla in New Delhi.