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ICC World Twenty20: Last chance for strugglers to make a mark

India's game against Australia would offer a great opportunity to Dhawan and Yuvi to find form with the bat.

Yuvraj Singh has struggled in his two outings in the ICC World Twenty20 so far (PTI) Yuvraj Singh has struggled in his two outings in the ICC World Twenty20 so far. (PTI)

When the ICC World T20 2014 began, not many people were counting India among the favorites to win the tournament. However, their remarkable performances against Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh seems to have rekindled fans’ faith in the team. Friday’s win against Bangladesh catapulted them to the top of Group 2 and also secured them the coveted semi-final berth. India’s game against Australia might not be worrying Mahendra Singh Dhoni much, but it would offer a great opportunity to the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh to find much-needed form in the tournament. On the other hand, George Bailey would expect his under-fire team to salvage some pride before the team makes a shameful exit from the tournament.

The under-performers

Dhawan’s moustache isn’t twirling anymoreIndia may have found good momentum in the ongoing T20 world cup, but opener Shikhar Dhawan’s form has been a cause of worry. It is commonly said that T20 cricket is too short a format to judge a batsman in just 3-4 innings – batsmen always look to score quickly, and in doing so, tend to throw away their wickets with a rash shot. However, the curious case of Shikhar Dhawan goes beyond the normative judgement.

Dhawan’s short stay at the crease during India’s match against Bangladesh on Friday exposed a few chinks in his armour – his feet weren’t moving properly, his head wasn’t straight enough and he was merely trying to go for the big shots without assessing the deliveries properly. The result? He ended up edging an Al-Amin delivery onto the stumps. On his day, Dhawan would have easily flicked the same delivery on the leg-side without much ado. The flamboyant opener, who burst out in international cricket with a majestic 187 against Australia last year, is apparently struggling with his batting technique and Dhoni would expect him to fire in the remaining matches in the tournament. Fans are waiting with baited breath to see the trademark mustache twirl once again.

Yuvraj, a pale shadow of his former self: Yuvraj Singh’s name was forever etched in the annals of T20 cricket’s nascent history when he smashed Stuart Broad for six sixes in the inaugral edition of T20 World Cup. Almost seven years later, Yuvraj Singh is but a pale shadow of his former self. Since his highly anticipated comeback in the Indian team last year, Yuvraj has had a disappointing run, much to the fans chagrin. His brief innings in the first two games against Pakistan and West Indies were unlike what the Punjab southpaw is capable of doing with the bat. Very rarely has Yuvraj looked so tense and docile in his 14-year-old career.

Also renowned for his athletic fielding and impeccable catching abilities, Yuvraj’s efforts in the outfield have been below par in the tournament thus far. His dropped catches in the first two games drew him some flak from critics and fans alike. The Indian skipper, however, came out for Yuvi’s defence saying that the dashing batsman needs some more time to settle down. With India already confirmed for the semi-finals, is there really much time left for Yuvraj to find some form, or should Dhoni replace him with Ajinkya Rahane? We can only wait and watch.

Woeful exploits of the Three Musketeers: 2012 T20 World Cup finalists Australia are almost knocked out of the ongoing tournament, and the team’s dismal bowling performance is one of the primary reasons behind it.  It is apparent that Bailey is ruing the absence’s of his frontline seamer, Mitchell Johnson’s fiery presence in the team. Unfortunately, Australia’s Three Musketeers – James Faulkner, Doug Bollinger and Mitchell Starc – haven’t been able to contain the flow of runs. Shane Watson and hasn’t impressed with the ball either, and that has been a major cause of worry for the Aussies.

Perhaps the triad of Faulkner, Bollinger and Starc – all left-hand medium pacers – becomes a tad monotonous and predictable for the batsmen. At least that was the case in Australia’s recent match against West Indies, where Darren Sammy comfortably led his side to an emphatic victory after pummeling the three left-armers all over the park. Australia, who are almost certain to exit the World Cup, will play for pride in their game against India on Sunday and coach Darren Lehmann would be expecting Aussie bowlers to focus more on their bowling rather than making boisterous statements against other teams in the media.

Muirhead turned some heads: While Aussie seamers were taking a hammering from the West Indies batsman, it was the fiesty leg-spin of debutant James Muirhead that brought some respite for Bailey in the middle. With just three first-class matches in his belt, 20-year-old Muirhead got an early call in the Australian national team and he made the opportunity count. Last year, Australia had capped another young spinner in Ashton Agar against England in the Ashes; however, he failed to make any impact with the ball whatsoever.

Whereas, James Muirhead had a great, if not perfect, start to T20 cricket. He was replacing the experienced Brad Hogg and the expectations were obviously quite high. Nevertheless, Muirhead kept his calm and bowled a decent 3-over spell where he flighted and turned the ball impressively well. Australia have had a dearth of quality leg-spinners after the departure of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill from the international stage. Since Steven Smith has transformed into a frontline test batsman, Australia should nurture Muirhead’s promising talent and try to draft him as a limited overs specialist. Sunday’s game will be a huge test for the rookie leggie, as he will face the best batsmen of spin in the world.

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