Final brush up before English test

The ICC will need to have a re-look at their World Twenty20 Cup format after the current one has left most of the final league games redundant. Sanjeev K Samyal reports. India vs England
Hindustan Times | By Sanjeev K Samyal, Colombo
UPDATED ON SEP 23, 2012 10:59 AM IST

The ICC will need to have a re-look at their World Twenty20 Cup format after the current one has left most of the final league games redundant.

There is little incentive in the three-team group league for big teams as points accrued at this stage are not carried forward to the next stage, and the presence of minnows almost always makes the last league games inconsequential, unless, of course, there is an upset win.

More than anything, the authorities would do well to remember that such matches gave rise to the menace of match fixing (not referring to the World T20) when players thought that with nothing to play for 'why not have some fun'.

But, if there is any team, which cannot afford to relax in its inconsequential game, it is India. They have played three games since reaching here, including two warm-ups, but are yet to get their combination right. Sunday's league tie against defending champions England is skipper MS Dhoni's last opportunity to experiment and find the ideal balance before the tournament enters the Super Eight stage.

Need more tooth
The main concern is the team's bowling. With the skipper opting for a seven-batsmen, four-bowler combo, the risk is that if one of the four has an off day, the bowling arsenal will collapse. Zaheer Khan's extended ineffectiveness has added to the team's woes.

The debate is whether the five-bowler combination will suit India any better. It's about playing to your strengths and India's strength has always been batting. It didn't help against Pakistan where Dhoni had five specialist bowlers but Kamran Akmal & Co chased down a total of 185 with five wickets to spare.

The 6-5 combination can be used strategically for a game or two, and India will get another opportunity to test it when they play England. It makes sense to go with an extra bowler against the defending champions because of the big hitters in their ranks.

Craig Kieswetter, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan and captain Stuart Broad can rattle any attack and the Indian skipper might be better off with an extra bowling option.

Match practice
The Indian think-tank is also keen on getting most of its players a hit before the Super Eight, hence there would be a few changes in the playing eleven. Paceman Ashok Dinda or off-spinner Harbhajan Singh are likely to get on board and a batsman, possibly Virender Sehwag, will be benched.

"It may happen in this game (play five bowlers) but what is crucial for us is to see whether the fifth bowler will come in and make a difference or not, because in the first warm-up game, it was the seventh batsman who really scored runs when Rohit batted really well. It is a difficult decision to make but we will see how it goes in the coming games and then we will be in a better position to decide whether we need to play with five bowlers or we can manage with four," said Dhoni on Friday.

Along with Zaheer's form concerns, the other issue is the inconsistent form of openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.

Dhoni admitted it had put the team under pressure. "It does put a bit of pressure… when you are in the knockout stage and the need to play the fifth bowler arises then whom to drop becomes a tricky situation." On Saturday, India had an optional nets session, which Sehwag, Zaheer, R Ashwin and L Balaji chose to skip. But, the India skipper assured that Sehwag was fit.

Story Saved