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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019: India could play three fast bowlers, and bring in Pant

“India have two good spinners and though I am not in the middle, I don’t think they are unplayable. If you get into the India spinners without losing any wickets, I don’t think they are going to be that effective,” writes Brian Lara

cricket Updated: Jun 30, 2019 13:24 IST
Brian Lara
Brian Lara
FILE PHOTO: Cricket - England v West Indies Investec Test Series First Test - Lord's - 18/5/12 Former West Indies cricketer Brian Lara watches the match Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Cricket - England v West Indies Investec Test Series First Test - Lord's - 18/5/12 Former West Indies cricketer Brian Lara watches the match Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra/File Photo(Action Images)
         

For me, India are in the semi-finals and two wins away from the trophy. But there are improvements to make and one of them is a really big call of whether they play five bowlers—two spinners and three seamers—assuming Bhuvi Kumar is fit.

That’s because Mohammed Shami has proved to be a wicket-taker. A lot of batsmen now try to stifle Jasprit Bumrah and because that happens, India would need somebody else to take wickets. Shami can do that and so can Kumar.

India have two good spinners and though I am not in the middle, I don’t think they are unplayable. If you get into the India spinners without losing any wickets, I don’t think they are going to be that effective. You can’t tell me Joe Root, Jos Buttler and guys who have played in the IPL against these spinners on Indian wickets are going to be panicking because of them.

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So India’s strength really is their fast bowlers, meaning it is not a bad option to play three of them and two spinners, because what you are getting out of Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar is not that great. India could rely on Hardik Pandya batting at No. 6 and just have good bowlers.

I also see an opportunity for Rishabh Pant because Shankar, Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav are batting in a manner that’s not benefiting the team. If they lose two early wickets, they go into such a consolidation mode that the run rate just drops like that. A lot of pressure is put on Pandya meaning you need another attacking option with the bat. Anyway, I don’t see Pandya and Pant only as hitting options who will get out at any time.

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But Pant cannot come in at the expense of Dhoni. His experience at the World Cup is crucial and the positive psychological effect his omission can have on the opposing team would be huge. I also think Dhoni is telling himself ‘listen I need to score faster and I need to rotate the strike.’ To fit Pant in you will need to look at one of Jadhav and Shankar.

Normal England

For all the hype about the hosts going into this tournament, what I am seeing is the normal England. True, they had not produced a team this good, one that has the ingredients of being great, but they have always been a side which can crack under pressure. People talk about West Indies playing one-dimensional but I think everybody also know what England are coming with, they know exactly what every player is capable of. It helps you plan.

So while I may be surprised that Sri Lanka beat them, I am not that Pakistan and Australia had the better of England or that India can on Sunday. Jonny Bairstow’s hitting out at criticism shows everything is not quite right. If you lose three games and find yourself in a must-win situation it is only your fault. Thinking about external criticism is in pretty poor form. If you are going to win this World Cup at some point of time you are going to meet India. It so happens that you are meeting India in a must-win game so go out, show your character, win the game.

Given the great travelling pack India have, England could feel like they are playing away but even if the stadium was empty it would still be their toughest test of character. There was a time when the West Indies played in Barbados and all the tickets went to the tourists, the Barmy Army and everything. Sometimes teams embrace such a situation and produce the goods necessary. England will be tested, let’s see if they have it.

Windies show expected

Remember, West Indies crept into the World Cup through qualification. Of course, the performance in the Caribbean against England just before the World Cup raised hopes but even in the first game against Pakistan, where everyone went ‘wow’, you look at the number of shots unnecessarily played in the air with nobody looking in command—to me it was a good picture of what might come.

I think there are quite a few good young players but the West Indies cricket establishment has to grab them and teach them the rudiments of cricket. Talent is not everything. I spent my first three or four years rooming with Desmond Haynes, the late Malcolm Marshall, Jeffrey Dujon, Curtly Ambrose and the information I got, I soaked it all in. When you sit alone in your room with Instagram and Twitter there is not much you can learn. We are not harnessing that talent well enough to perform at the international level.

Fifty per cent of Chris Gayle’s job is to perform and the other 50% is to make sure that he makes an impact on the young talent around him and I am almost sure he knows that. We can expect whatever from Chris but for me, the most important part he will play is to teach these young players.

Brian Lara is an expert analyst on Select Dugout on Star Sports 1 Select HD, which airs during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on India match days, Sundays, Semi-finals and Finals.

First Published: Jun 30, 2019 13:23 IST

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