Indians face tough test

COLOMBO — India’s listless bowling attack will aim to put up an improved performance ahead of the Super Eight stage when they take on England in their final group league encounter in the ICC World Twenty20 on Sunday.

By (Agencies)

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Published: Sun 23 Sep 2012, 11:42 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:33 AM

Both India and England are through to the Super Eight but the contrasting manner of their respective victories certainly makes Stuart Broad and Co favourites ahead of a clash that has gained marquee status over the years.

While the Indian team management will be looking to plug the loopholes that appeared in the match against Afghanistan, England, after a facile 116-run win, will look to repeat that performance against a much better team.

The cause of concern for India across all formats has been their bowlers and it is no different in Twenty20.

33-year-old Zaheer Khan, who has manfully shouldered the burden as the leader of the attack, seems to have reached the fag end of his career and is increasingly looking pedestrian.

It is Zaheer’s poor show that has led to the entire Indian attack looking ordinary.

Add to it, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s penchant for playing only four specialist bowlers always leaves the team in a high risk zone where it is expected that the part-timers need to perform above expectations.

The Mumbai-pacer has looked totally out of sorts in the net sessions so far.

Although it is too early to predict whether Zaheer will be benched considering that both Irfan Pathan and Laxmipathy Balaji have bowled better than him, but it can be said that he is playing the shortest format on borrowed time.

The 22-yard strip at the R Premadasa Stadium has been of great help for the pace bowlers but the ‘Men in Blue’ are more reliant on their spinners.

The big question, however, will be whether senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will get a chance in the playing XI. Knowing the perennial weakness of the English batsmen against spinners, Dhoni might just feel tempted to play the veteran of 98 Tests and 229 ODIs.

The batting line-up looks more or less settled but for Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina who have complaints regarding sore throat and stomach bug.

In case one among the two misses out, Manoj Tiwary is expected to replace that particular player. The performances of openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will also be closely watched as the formidable duo hasn’t done anything noteworthy in recent times.

A blazing start by Sehwag will lessen the pressure on India’s ‘man of the moment’ Virat Kohli, who has been in dream form for the past one year.

It will be interesting to find out whether skipper Dhoni promotes himself up the order ahead of Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh.

Yuvraj’s form so far hasn’t been great and the ‘comeback man’ certainly needs one innings of significance in order to feel comfortable.

One must not forget that it was against England that Yuvraj played one of the most memorable knock in Twenty20 cricket hitting Broad for six sixes.

The England team, on the other hand, bears a much settled look after their comprehensive win against Afghanistan was a testimony to that.

Luke Wright, who has always been considered as great potential, finally showed his mettle at the biggest stage with a fantastic unbeaten knock of 99.

That Wright can bat at No 3 — a position held by none other than Kevin Pietersen — and also bowls handy medium-pace gives Broad a chance to play around with his options.

Apart from Wright, the likes of Craig Kieswetter, Alex Hales, Jos Butler, Jonathan Bairstow can all hit the ball a fair distance which makes this team a handful proposition in this format.

With three potent pacers — the skipper himself, Steven Finn and Jade Dernbach — the bowling also bears a settled look. The two specialist spinners in Graeme Swann and Samit Patel would like to show that the Indian batsmen can be kept under tight leash.

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