India are in high spirits for the Asia Cup final
Pakistan might have blown Bangladesh batsmen away in the last league match of the Asia Cup, but the fact that bowlers dominated is an aberration in a tournament where the pitches have been flat all along. I expect the pitch for the final to be flat as well and this, again, will make it extremely hard for the bowlers.
If the boundaries get shortened, irrespective of the nature of the pitch, then the batsmen can go at the ball fearlessly, knowing that even a mis-hit will clear the ropes. All that bowlers can do is vary their pace and angles to keep the batsmen guessing.
Bowlers have to be assigned clear roles and if someone’s job is to take wickets, then the captain needs to back him even if he goes for runs. On these pitches, you can’t succeed if all five bowlers are just looking to restrict the batsmen. You have to find a couple of bowlers who can pick up wickets. In times like this strategy becomes very important, because taking wickets is the only way to keep the run-rate down.
On such flat wickets, you can’t bowl in set patterns and I think the spinners definitely have a role to play, even during the fielding restrictions.
These challenges sometimes get the best out of a spinner. When a fast bowler is bowling, the men in the deep, usually fine-leg and third-man, are in a defensive role, saving runs. But if a spinner is bowling, and you have long-on and square-leg out, then they also become catching positions.
The other thing the spinner must do when bowling with the field restrictions on is resist the temptation to experiment. Sometimes when you bowl three dot balls you begin to think that the batsman is going to take a chance and come down the wicket, and by anticipating this you end up bowling short.
In my experience it’s best to postpone this thought and do what has worked for you. If the batsman comes down the pitch then automatically there's something in the computer in your head that makes you shorten the length. It's best not to get too far ahead of the game and just stick to what's working.
Also, you have to identify a couple of bowlers up front who can take wickets, and another one in the middle overs whose role also is to pick up wickets. For this to work, the fielding has to be top-class. The fielders in the circle have to be in positions where they save the single because it is wickets, and dot balls, that will build the pressure.
In the final it will be important for teams to hold their nerve and in that respect, India are in a good position. This team has tasted success in finals over the last year and is equipped to handle pressure that big games offer. I think this team has the upper hand because its has the belief that it can get out of any difficult situation.
For Sri Lanka the key will be Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene. We’ll have to get two of these three cheaply and not give too many to the third. They're all class players and this is asking a lot of the bowlers, but that will hold the key to the final.
The two best teams have made it to the final and I think it’s going to take a bowler to stand up and win the game for his side.
The batsmen have been scoring at will, and one bowler — a fast bowler or a spinner — needs to take responsibility and pull the game back for his side.