Published in www.cricketnext.com
India’s status as favourites in the ICC World Cup 2011, and its chances of reaching the Semi Finals are under serious threat given the lackluster bowling performances the team has dished out in its first two matches.
Against Bangladesh at Mirpur in the opener, the Indians were defending a massive 370, yet the bowlers allowed the opponents to play with freedom and even scare India at one stage. Against England in the pulsating tied match at Bengaluru, India seemed too complacent after scoring 338 and at one stage seemed down and out of the contest.
India’s opening bowlers have been below par, unable to make early inroads, and Zaheer Khan had to utilise all his experience to bring India back into the match against England. Munaf Patel picked up key wickets against Bangladesh but against England he was largely ineffective despite picking up Kevin Pietersen with a stunning caught and bowled effort.
Ashish Nehra’s absence through injury has been felt badly by the Indian attack for the experienced left arm seamer could have added teeth to the ineffective bowling arsenal that India possesses. S. Sreesanth was so wayward against Bangladesh that MS Dhoni would have to be very brave to select him again in the tournament except against the minnows.
India’s spinners have not been very inspiring either. Harbhajan Singh has not picked up the wickets he was expected to. Piyush Chawla was fielded against the Englishmen and did bag two wickets but he was hit for crucial sixes by the tail-enders.
India’s part-timers need to put in that extra effort too, for Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan seemed out of sorts with the ball against England as well.
Teams like South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Australians may not allow India’s batting to put up 300 and more on the board, and their batting might prove too hot to handle for the Indian bowling at this rate.
What needs to be noted is that India won the World Cup final against the mighty West Indians in 1983 while defending a very low score by bowling brilliantly and utilising the conditions at Lords.Again in 2003, when India reached the final, they bowled very effectively and India won 7 matches on the trot till they came up against the marauding Australians in the last encounter.
In this World Cup, India’s bowlers had better pull up their socks very soon, for sterner tests await them. Making the quarter finals would not be much of a problem but thereafter it is knock-out time and one bad day could see the end of the World Cup dream for Team India.
Playing R. Ashwin might be one option. He bowls with greater control than does Chawla and he is a level headed young bowler. Nehra’s return to the team would also work wonders, and the long gap between matches should provide him with enough time to recover.
Dhoni and Gary Kirsten need to put their heads together and they need to think fast. For India’s chances depend as much on their brilliant batting as on their brittle bowling. Team India has the necessary fortitude to improve rapidly, and in order to lift the World Cup, they need to do just that.