Virender Sehwag was in the middle of an informal coaching session where he was displaying a correctness in stance and back lift,while among those who watched while seated around the India opener was skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Soon the bunch of players that also included Virat Kohli and Zaheer Khan burst into laughter and though the source or nature of the light-hearted banter remains unknown,there was a sense of camaraderie prevailing.
If Sehwag carried a grudge for being dropped as Dhoni opted to play the extra spinner and field five bowlers in all,then it was not visible during the optional practice session on the eve of India’s Super Eight game against Pakistan.
After the thrashing India received at the hands of Shane Watson and David Warner,in spite of fielding three spinners,cricketing logic only suggests that Dhoni will go in with two slower bowlers against Pakistan a team which have batsmen adept at playing spin.
The poor show with the bat against Australia suggests Dhoni will be more than tempted to play the extra batsman and a bowler less. And in such a scenario it will be difficult for him to look beyond Sehwag,who did not have a hit in the nets during practice.
Also if he plays only four bowlers then Dhoni may continue to field Yuvraj Singh,who can bowl tidy overs and also has picked up wickets with his brand of left-arm spin. Fielding both Sehwag and Yuvraj will mean that India will have two out of form batsman in the line-up.
If Sehwag returns to the batting line-up that will also result in Irfan Pathan dropping down the order and back to his comfort zone. Though Pathan opened the innings against Australia and made 31,it was a laboured stay for the all-rounder in the middle.
“One can’t criticise five-bowler strategy just because we have done badly in one match. Actually,you have to choose horses for courses. It’s very difficult to justify why it was Sehwag who had to be dropped,” Dhoni had said after the loss against Australia on Friday.
On the eve of the game,Dhoni,however,prepared to talk about the potential of the team as a unit rather than dwell on individuals.
“I think if you just see the potential the team has got it,it is only a question of playing to the potential on the field. So let’s go and express ourselves,let’s play some big shots and go in with a lot of confidence. Whatever the result may be,let’s not fear about the result,” Dhoni said. Pakistan,unlike their traditional rivals,have been rather consistent in this tournament but they are not without worries.
Shahid Afridi hasn’t clicked with the bat yet,but skipper Mohammad Hafeez has been banking on Afridi the ‘bowler’ rather than Afridi the ‘batsman’.
Pakistan’s strike bowler Umar Gul has been struggling with his line and length,while their best spinner Saeed Ajmal has not been as effective as he would have liked to be.
A bit of history
Going into this Super Eight game there is a bit of history in favour of India and a bit going against the team. India has won all their six previous encounters at the 50-over World Cup – in 1992,96,99,2003 and in the World T20 two matches in the inaugural edition in 2007.
However,in the shortest format of the game Dhoni’s side has lost all their seven Super Eight games,since it was introduced in 2009.