Australia test awaits Dhoni & Co
After the carnival atmosphere of St Lucia, where India played their first round matches, getting past Afghanistan and South Africa convincingly, it’s time to get down to serious business. And, from a cricketing perspective, there are few places as significant as the island of Barbados.
From a legends-per-square-kilometre measure, there is no location in the world that compares. From the incomparable Sir Gary Sobers, who would have been a legend even in this format, to the likes of Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, Malcolm Marshall, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, the list is endless.
India come here in search of their own destiny, attempting to do well in the second phase of the tournament to ensure that they return to Barbados for the final. In a format in which each of their players is an experienced campaigner, India struggled the last time around in the World T20 in England.
Given just how enthusiastically the format has been embraced back home, anything short of an appearance in the final will be a disappointment. What’s not such good news, though, is that India’s first game in the Super Eights is against Australia. Although they’re relatively unsuccessful in T20 cricket, this Aussie team is geared up perfectly to blow away any opposition.
What will play right into their hands is the extra pace and bounce of the pitch at the Kensington Oval. Australia have been more than happy to leave out their frontline spinner, Nathan Hauritz, and go into matches with an all-pace attack. Given that the battery includes the three fastest bowlers of the tournament - Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Dirk Nannes, minds will no doubt go back to the years when the West Indians dominated world cricket through sheer pace.
The concept of playing four fast bowlers and literally bouncing out the opposition was the brainchild of Clive Lloyd, who refused to even make a pretence of playing a spinner when he did not have one of sufficient quality in the mix. He picked his four best bowlers, and if they all happened to be pacemen, so be it.
India skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is no student of history, but his ultra-practical approach has shades of Lloyd in it. Dhoni never bothers with niceties or convention, and focusses solely on how to get the job done.
If the need of the hour is merely to score one run more than the opposition and register a win, he is more than happy to make some unusual selection decisions.
For Dhoni and India, the arrival in Barbados brings with it a chance to learn from the past and write their names in the books of T20 history. The next week will reveal just how well they’re able to grab the opportunity.