Apr 112014
 
Comment - What India Must Do Before 2015 World Cup
Irfan Pathan appeals for a wicket

Could Irfan Pathan play a key role for India at the 2015 World Cup?

© REUTERS / Action Images

I never thought India would reach even the knockout stages of the recently concluded ICC World T20. After the disappointing tour of South Africa and New Zealand, team India even failed to make the final of Asia Cup which of course reduced my expectations further.

But this time I was pleasantly surprised by Team India, making it to the final without being beaten once is a huge achievement. Even though they lost the final, even they and real fans like me will agree that they have exceeded expectations.

As T20 fever is over now let’s switch our focus to the 2015 World Cup. What do you think of India’s chances of defending the title or what are the areas of concern they have?

The answer is quite straightforward: Team India is struggling in ODIs and there are lots of problems to think about.

The series against New Zealand was a wake-up call for the team about what to expect during the 2015 World Cup. During that five-match One-Day International series the openers failed to provide a decent start as they crossed the 50-run mark only once (64 runs in the third ODI).

The middle order looked vulnerable as both Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina were completely out of sorts. Raina was eventually dropped for the last two ODIs due to poor performances and was replaced by Ambati Rayudu who looked okay with scores of 37 and 20.

Stuart Binny played only one match in which he bowled only one over for eight runs and didn’t have a chance to bat. The selection of Binny for that tour was an indication that team was looking for an all-rounder who can bowl medium fast and can bat down the order; it was a smart choice keeping conditions into consideration.

Yet, with only one match, Binny could not prove anything and so we will never know how good or bad Binny would have been for Team India in those conditions.

Speaking of bowling, India conceded in excess of 270 runs in every match. The spin combination of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja didn’t looked threatening at all as the pitches were not conducive for spinners which India should take of note of.

India’s pacers (Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma) were too expensive especially Shami, Aaron and Sharma who never conceded less than six runs per over in a match throughout the series.

These statistics are alarming and definitely a matter of concern.

There was a feelling that only one match could have changed the course of the series but that match never came.  

So what should the team management do now? A whole lot of changes is not ideal but there are definitely some spots up for grabs. In my view this Indian side needs a batsman with solid defence who can cope with bounce and swing and a fast bowling all-rounder.

What do you think of India’s chances of defending the title or what are the areas of concern they have?

The answer is quite straightforward: Team India is struggling in ODIs and there are lots of problems to think about.

The series against New Zealand was a wake-up call for the team about what to expect during the 2015 World Cup.

The two names which pop into my mind straightaway are Cheteshwar Pujara and Irfan Pathan. Pujara, who has played only two ODIs for India is a must for the World Cup as he will bring much-needed stability to the side. He has the capability to hold up one end while the others can play their game around him.

The Indian batting line-up is full of strokemakers and even if Pujara takes some time to settle down, India can very well cover for it at the end. This coming IPL is going to be very important for him and good performances there will catch the eyes of the selectors.

Irfan Pathan on the other hand has enough experience of playing international cricket in Australia and New Zealand, so the only thing India needs is a fit and in-form Pathan (I hope I am not demanding too much or being overly-optimistic here).

Pathan, like many Indian fast bowlers, lost his way in the middle of his career and constant injuries never helped him. Nevertheless, there is no doubt about his ability and India need his services badly.

He can come on at first change to control the flow of runs and take crucial wickets during the middle overs. With the bat he can provide India with crucial balance and will give MS Dhoni an option to play an extra bowler (spinner or fast bowler).

Having said that, he has been out of the side for quite some time and he needs to perform well in this year’s IPL. Hopefully he can learn some tricks of the trade from his Sunrisers bowling partner Dale Steyn, coach Tom Moody and bowling coach Waqar Younis.

India will play only five more ODIs (against England in England) before they start their defence of the World Cup and there is not much time left for India to experiment which means players have less time to prove themselves.

That makes the IPL even more important for players like Pujara and Pathan; hope both of them grab their chances with both hands.

Before I conclude, one more player I would like to see in the 2015 World Cup is Gautam Gambhir. I will never forget the innings he played in the 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka or the innings against Pakistan in the ICC World Twenty20 2007 final.

He is definitely a big match player and I just hope that he plays well in this IPL and confirms his ticket for Australia and New Zealand.

© Cricket World 2014

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Apr 062014
 
Sri Lanka finally taste World Cup success

Kumar Sangakkara struck an unbeaten 52 as Sri Lanka defeated a disappointing India by six wickets Sunday to finally win the World Twenty20 title.

Sri Lanka reached 134-4 in 17.5 overs to complete the long-awaited win in an ICC world tournament after restricting India to an unimpressive 130-4.

Former captain Sangakkara ensured there was no heartbreak this time after Sri Lanka had lost in four ICC world finals over the past seven years, including the World Cups in 2007 and 2011.

Sri Lanka was making its third World Twenty20 final appearance. It lost to Pakistan in the 2009 final and to the West Indies in 2012.

Sangakkara had struggled in this tournament, scoring only 19 runs before this match, but struck form when it mattered most. 

He was quickly in the groove and took control despite a slight slow-down in the middle when the score was 78-4 in the 13th over.

Sangakkara and veteran teammate Mahela Jayawardene had announced that they would not take part in international T20s after this tournament.

Sangakkara proceeded to make it a memorable final outing for both with a fluent 35-ball knock in which he hit six fours and one six.

The left-hander saw the team through in the company of Thisara Perera (23 not out), who completed the victory with a huge six off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and punched the air as the Sri Lanka team ran onto the pitch.

Sangakkara raised his hands with helmet and bat to celebrate the win and was hugged by fellow players and even opponent Virat Kohli.

Sri Lanka then celebrated its first world title since the 1996 World Cup triumph with a victory lap.

Sangakkara and Jayawardene were carried on teammates’ shoulders even as smoke from an elaborate fireworks display enveloped the ground.

”We have waited five finals for this victory,” Sangakkara said. ”I’m happy to have done something for the team. Everyone was looking forward to this win. India is a very good side but we were quite confident of pulling it off today.”

Earlier, the Indian innings could never get the impetus it needed and defending a total less than 150 was always going to be difficult.

Kohli struck 77 off 58 balls with five fours and four sixes but some tight bowling from Sri Lanka restricted the free flow of runs expected from the Indian batting lineup.

The departure of a well-set Rohit Sharma for 29 and a slow 11 off 21 by Yuvraj Singh saw the Sri Lankan bowlers seize the moment.

But India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni defended the decision to send in Yuvraj at No.4 ahead of Suresh Raina and himself.

”He’s a great player but it was just one of those days when he did not click,” Dhoni said. ”I think the credit should go to the Sri Lankan bowlers to have contained us the way they did. They really executed their plans very well, especially in the end overs.”

Kohli, who survived two chances on 11 and 65, completed his fourth half-century of the tournament to finish as the highest scorer of this World Twenty20 with 319 runs.

He was also named player of the tournament. India could score only 19 runs in the last four overs as Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara bowled out beautifully, going for yorkers and full-length deliveries outside the off stump.

India, World Twenty20 champion in 2007, was in line to hold all three ICC tournaments at the same time since it won the 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy.

India had defeated Sri Lanka in the final of the 2011 World Cup.

– AP

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