On pitches in the sub-continent, the best way to use the ball is to take the pace off it. There are some good pacers doing duty at the World Twenty20, but it is the strength of the spin attack that is likely to decide the fortune of teams.
New Zealand are a solid side, but on Tuesday, in their opening Super-10s game, how they handle the spin threat posed by India is likely to be the decisive factor.
The ICC guidelines are strict about the kind of surfaces for its events, restricting the influence exerted by the hosts, still the Vidarbha Cricket Association ground should be to the liking of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Not that the two need much help given the form they are in.
Even on the Australian wickets, where they played in January, the two struck an effective partnership. As captain MS Dhoni looks to attack with Ashwin, he has the accurate Jadeja to carry out the containment job from the other end.
Here’s what Dhoni’s deputy Virat Kohli had to say ahead of the clash:
For the first time since the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni has the luxury of a settled bowling attack at his command. For that, he has to thank the selectors for their vision of introducing the young Jasprit Bumrah and veteran Ashish Nehra into the side. The two have been carrying out the role of attacking with the new ball and bowling with confidence at the death.
Invariably, the two have been making early inroads in all the games. It has only allowed the spin duo to prosper as the numbers state, with the offie picking 17 wickets and Jadeja claiming 11 in India’s last 10 T20s.
The Indian team management would have noticed the New Zealand batsmen’s vulnerability against spin in the warm-up game at the Wankhede on Saturday against England, when their batsmen slowed down when the spinners came on.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson admitted that handling spin would be the main challenge on Tuesday. “We certainly are expecting spin to play a big part in this tournament. Judging by the warm-up games in Mumbai, they had a bit for the seamers and it swung a little bit. They were very good surfaces but from what cricket we have seen here in Nagpur, spin looks likely to play a big part. It’s important that we adjust our game-plans accordingly,” said Williamson.
What has added to Dhoni’s bowling options is the effective backup provided by part-timers Hardik Pandya and Yuvraj Singh. Pandya has been consistently clocking late 130s, and since the Australia tour Yuvraj has delivered with the ball, giving the side some important breakthroughs.