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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Why India should field three pacers in their World Cup semis clash

Makarand Waingankar



India have been in top form in the World Cup so far.

Mumbai: India’s change in strategy helped them beat Bangladesh and qualify for the World Cup semifinals.

After getting hammered by England on a small ground at Edgbaston (where the width of one side of the ground was a mere 59 yards), India changed their strategy completely.

They dropped one spinner (Kuldeep Yadav) and replaced him with seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar. It paid handsome dividends and showed India might have erred in playing two spinners at Edgbaston.

In ODIs, if three bowlers are taken for runs then you deserve to lose. And that is what happened against England.

The hosts attacked from the very beginning. They were lucky as some streaky shots went to the boundary in the early stages. But they were aggressive and combined with poor bowling saw India lose their unbeaten status.

Against Bangladesh change in combination helped India put up a much-improved bowling performance.

Not only in bowling, there were changes made in the batting department too. Dinesh Karthik came in place of Kedar Jadhav and the team management kept faith in Rishabh Pant for the crucial No. 4 spot.

Pant has never batted at the position for his state Delhi in domestic cricket, so this decision is up for debate.

As a batsman he is suited to play at No. 6 or No. 7. But Virat Kohli likes his aggressive style and the team management has no other option but to lend support to what the India skipper believes in.

One of the hallmarks of this Indian team is the demarcation of roles. Even coach Ravi Shastri doesn’t interfere with the batting order unless necessary.

This is the conflict that arose between Kohli and Anil Kumble. The former leg spinner wanted to run the team. But skipper Kohli wanted full control.

If Kohli wants Pant at No. 4, so be it. But this strategy remains a risky one, considering India are set to face either England or New Zealand in the last four stage.

The Kiwis are not an attacking batting side per se. They take calculated risks. They don’t have much of batting once their skipper Kane Williamson departs.

Jasprit Bumrah’s form will be key to India’s fortune in the World Cup.

Hence Williamson remains the key to their fortunes. So India’s strategy will have to change according to their opponents.

If India are up against England, it is imperative that Kohli’s team plays with three pacers, considering the way the home side dominated India’s two spinners.

If England awaits us, the team that played against Bangladesh should be picked. England will attack Chahal.

In such a scenario the importance of Jasprit Bumrah will grow further. He has always been India’s key bowler. They might not have felt the need to attack Bumrah at Edgbaston. But in the semifinal stage, someone would have to go after him.

In India’s eight matches so far, no team has dared to take him on. Attacking the opponent’s bowling spearhead is not a viable policy for teams these days.

It seems the days of Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Virender Sehwag are gone. Srikkanth had the courage to take on Imran Khan and Wasim Akram.

Sehwag was known for his ability to attack any bowler. But now all teams are cautious in their approach.

India’s bowling combination needs to be chosen wisely for the semifinals. No team is willing to play against Australia in the semis.

Despite criticism, MS Dhoni remains an intergral part of the Indian team.

That is the strategy for the teams vying for the third and fourth spots.

India’s team management has done a good job in keeping the boys fit and fresh. The team has executed most of the strategies devised by the think tank.

As far as MS Dhoni is concerned, one shouldn’t expect the 37-year-old Dhoni to bat like a 17-year-old.

Even Sachin Tendulkar slowed down in the later stages of his career. But his ability to rotate the strike makes him valuable in the death overs.

His 30-40 crucial runs at the end, when the team is five or six down, is helping India. So let’s not bay for his blood, for now.

Dr. Makarand is a cricket journalist for more than five decades contributing to Sportsweek, Sportstar, The Hindu and The Times of India. He did his PhD on the “History of Bombay cricket and its impact on Indian cricket”. He initiated the Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW) for the BCCI to unearth talent from small towns. He was the CEO of the Baroda Cricket Association and consultant to KSCA.