Languishing at the bottom of the points table, India will hope that rain does not play spoilsport as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men need an outright over the Kiwis to progress to Saturday’s final against Sri Lanka.
But going into the match, Dhoni would be a worried man as his famed top-order line-up has struggled throughout the series, the proof of which was the 103-run surrender to Sri Lanka in the last match.
Barring Virender Sehwag, all other Indian top-order batsmen have found the going tough on the tricky Rangagiri Dambulla wicket.
Sehwag will have to shoulder the responsibility of guiding the Indian innings against the pace-heavy Kiwi attack.
India’s main worry, however, will be the form of youngsters who have failed to rise to the occasion in the absence of seniors such as Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh.
Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have failed miserably in the earlier matches. To add to it, Dhoni himself has very little to show in the tournament.
But Yuvraj Singh’s return to runs in the last match might give Dhoni something to cheer about.
Yuvraj, who came back to the playing eleven against Sri Lanka in the last match after recovering from dengue, managed the only knock of substance for India with a fighting 38 off 64 balls.
“Next game is like a semi-final now. We have to do well in that match or we have to pack up and go back home,” Dhoni had said after the humiliating eight-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka, which was also India’s biggest loss in terms of balls remaining.
“Yuvraj batted well (in the last match). That was the positive thing. He is a crucial man at the middle order. He is the kind of guy who can graft for runs and also hit big shots,” the Indian skipper said of the left-hander.
On the bowling front, the Indian attack has done a fine job so far, except for the last match where they had very little to defend.
On the dreadful form of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, Dhoni said the duo may be struggling right now but both of them have proved themselves to be match-winners in the past.
“You have to see the strength. What kind of stability one brings into the side. Especially, if you see Ravindra Jadeja, if you see his bowling performance in the past one and half years, he had quite a few bad games in between but overall, a majority of games he has bowled really well.
“His batting has dipped down but if he can contribute with the bat, he is the option with whom we can play with five bowlers. He is literally our fifth bowler who has done well for us unless you can find an all-rounder who can bowl 10 overs for us,” he explained.
“Rohit, I think, it’s a tricky situation for him. Always in and out of the side. There’s a pressure when you are always in and out of the side. He was unfortunate to get out once when he didn’t get the umpire’s decision in his favour. So two innings, I don’t really think is good enough to decide whether a player is good or not. But of course, he is working hard. We are just hoping he comes up and scores some big runs,” he added.
On former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram criticism that the youngsters in the team are too spoilt and soft, Dhoni said the he wasn’t aware of such comments but just a couple of bad performances should not invite such remarks.
“I don’t know what Wasim Akram said. For me, what’s important is how the team is shaping up. if you talk about the team being soft, they have done really well in adverse and difficult conditions. Whether it’s in Australia or the Twenty20 World Cup or some of the other tournaments where we were not at our best,” he pointed out.
“Even in the Asia Cup, we did well with the youngsters. So I don’t think you should be clever enough to make a statement based on three or four games. It’s the overall picture that you set. I think the guys are courageous enough to go through any conditions or situations thrown at them.
“We are on the backfoot right now, with the conditions maybe. But these are the boys who will ultimately be part of the Indian cricket team now or sometime later,” he added.
Asked whether India would consider going in with seven batsmen to strengthen the fragile-looking line-up, Dhoni said packing more willow-wielders was no guarantee for huge scores.
“That’s definitely one of the options but again you have to see whether in these conditions we can bowl well with the part-timers because if we let them score to many runs, it becomes difficult to chase. At the same time, it may be difficult to contain them if they are chasing.
“We have to strike a balance but if the team feels the need to have additional specialist batsman and we can play around with the part-timers, we can look at that. But as I say, it’s more like a gamble and you have balance the positives and the negatives of having an individual in the side,” he said.
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