India should play Kumble in final
So far in this World Cup, India have been predictable almost to the point of being paranoid with their selection, but they need to change that pattern for the final against Australia.
So far in this World Cup, India have been predictable almost to the point of being paranoid with their selection, but they need to change that pattern for the final against Australia. In winning 16 matches in succession, Australia's bowlers have withstood every challenge that has come their way. By implication, that makes the batting the weaker facet of their game.
It is the Aussie batting that India must keep under control and to do so they need an extra front-line bowler in their line-up. My choice would be Anil Kumble and I would even be tempted to open the bowling with the highly competitive leg-spinner who has troubled both Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden at times. India can't afford to let this pair get away with their customary fast start, and using a spinner with the new ball is one way to unsettle their rhythm.
At the very least, I'd have Kumble primed and ready to go early if Gilchrist does start well against the quicks, as the experienced leggie enjoys bowling with close catchers around the bat. It is this type of innovative captaincy that has brought New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming success against Australia. But I'm not sure such enterprise is in Sourav Ganguly's make-up, given his superstitions and quirks.
If he wants to grab World Cup glory he has to suppress those inhibiting tendencies for a day and be prepared to "look outside the box". If Gilchrist survives for any length of time, Australia are assured of a decent total.
A figure of 250 has been more than enough for their bowling attack, which has been spearheaded by Brett Lee through this unprecedented run of success. If the opposition gets rid of Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting early, then the Australian line-up can be contained to a target that is reachable with determined and aggressively smart batting.
If India can restrict Australia to around 225, then they have the batting excellence to overcome the rampant Aussie bowlers. If Australia scores more than 250 India will be relying heavily on another masterly and major contribution from Sachin Tendulkar.
As always, Tendulkar is the key to Indian success with the bat and he is in the type of brilliant touch required to score heavily against Lee and Glenn McGrath. Tendulkar is so important, because he has the skill to attack Australia's leading bowlers successfully. But the rest of the Indian batsmen would do well to remember that this is a diluted attack --- with no Shane Warne or Jason Gillespie.
While Andrew Bichel and Brad Hogg have both performed extremely well in this tournament, any batsman worthy of the tag ‘international’ should feel this pair is easier to dominate than the two world-class bowlers missing in action. The ideal situation for India would be to bat first and post a score in excess of 250. Then all the pressure is exactly where you want it to be --- on Australia's batsmen.
The one thing all teams who have had early success against Australia's batsmen forget is to try and dismiss Michael Bevan. Australia with Bevan in the middle-order is like the West Indies in their heyday; if you don't bowl them out they'll reach the target. If Bevan is there at the end, it doesn't matter who is partnering him. Australia will win.
If teams continue to let Bevan play his preferred game of push and run in the early stages of his innings they will continue to pay the ultimate price --- defeat.
This final has the potential to be a classic high-scoring encounter in the vein of the 1975 game between the West Indies and Australia. Mention of a final involving the West Indies should be a good omen for the superstitious among the Indians, as their only previous trip to a final resulted in a victory over the Caribbean marauders. However, relying purely on precedent isn't going to win the game for India; they'll need determined play and innovative thinking to beat this Australian side.