ICC World Twenty20: India smooth over creases

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men may have coasted so far, but coach Fletcher looks for answers to tougher situations.

Mirpur | Updated: March 27, 2014 10:00:06 am
Yuvraj Singh has not hit the ground running yet, but still remains a vital member of the team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni (File) Yuvraj Singh has not hit the ground running yet, but still remains a vital member of the team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni (File)

Coach Duncan Fletcher was standing behind the first set of nets to get the closest possible views of Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh during India’s first practice session, after a two-day break ended Wednesday.

The players had time to watch video footage, replay shots or shadow-practice for themselves, hold team meetings or watch television on their day off. Chances are they, perhaps, just switched off from cricket for when everything is going as per plan, it is best not to clutter the mind by over-analysing the game. (Full Coverage: ICC World T20)

Fletcher was paying extra attention to Dhawan and Yuvraj, who took turns to bat against leg-spinner Amit Mishra and medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The Zimbabwean, however, was only trying to guide the two batsmen by giving them feedback — there had been no batting crisis to address.

Against the West Indies, Dhawan had been dismissed for a duck, trapped leg-before-wicket by leg-spinner Samuel Badree. Further, though Dhawan made 30 off 28 balls in the first game against Pakistan, his innings had not inspired any confidence. As for Yuvraj, he has looked off-colour during the tournament.

Dhawan opens the innings with Rohit Sharma, while Yuvraj’s all-round ability is a prized utility — they are important cogs in the Indian team.

It is easy to overlook a mini-slump in form from one or two players while the team is winning, as the media glare focuses on the team’s victory rather than on individual failures. What Fletcher trying to ensure, was that when tougher questions would be asked of India on the field, no player would be left searching for answers in the middle.

Midas touch

As yet, two facile victories have meant the Indian team hasn’t been really tested. The team has, undoubtedly, been in great form as they have convincingly beaten Pakistan and defending champions West Indies in a span of three days.

Everything Dhoni was done on the field in the World T20 in Bangladesh has had a Midas’ touch to it.

In the first match against Pakistan, he opened with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The move worked as the Pakistan batsmen found it difficult to rotate the strike. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was given the task of opening the bowling when facing the holders. His returned with figures of 3-0-3-0 from his first spell.

“You expected me to open with Ashwin, which means Ashwin was a normal choice. If you don’t bowl Ashwin, that means that’s a surprise,” Dhoni said, while enjoying a rare occasion when his bowlers had been spot-on in two successive games.

The inclusion of leg-spinner Amit Mishra has also been talked of as a master-stroke. Mishra, who has been in and out of the side and has played only a handful of matches, didn’t wilt under the pressure and has won the man-of-the-match award in both matches. Umar Akmal, Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Dwaye Smith; all have struggled to play their natural games when facing the Indian bowlers.

Restricting the big hitters has meant that India have had to chase smaller totals. Pakistan set India a 131-run target while the defending champions could only muster 129 while batting first. Dhoni has not even been required to bat yet.

“As far as bowling (is) concerned, I am really happy (with) how they have performed,” Dhoni had said, after the seven-wicket win over West Indies.

The bowlers’ success has given the batsmen the luxury of having time to get their eye in, rather than facing the pressure of having to clear the ropes as soon as they have arrived at the wicket. The spinners too, have not had to bowl in the second half of the night matches, where the dew has been a factor — MS Dhoni has won the toss and fielded in both matches.

India face Bangladesh on Friday, a match in which they are clear favourites. On paper, it should be another one-sided game, more so because the hosts have displayed so far absolutely no confidence so far. If Bangladesh surprise by being competitive for 40 overs, it will be interesting to see how India respond to the unlikely challenge, having played two one-sided games against tougher sides.

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