Bowling worry before crunch match
India left for Perth on Tuesday, keeping in mind the need to overcome batting and bowling worries ahead of their virtual semifinal against England in the tri-series on Friday. Despite the wash-out against Australia here on Monday, they would have gone away happy from their trip to Sydney.
The team arrived here knackered from the long tour so far, which was evident in the listless manner they lost to England in Brisbane. That defeat also meant the need to win both their remaining matches to qualify for the tri-series final in Perth on February 1. They practiced for two days, and rested for another two, with the match abandoned on Monday. All in all the team management was able to achieve a balance between time-off and time spent on the field, whilst gaining two points without much sweat. Now their clash with England on Friday assumes the simple nature of a semi-final: winners progress and play Australia on Sunday.
The Men in Blue did miss out an opportunity though, and it was to test their new-found bowling combination. At Melbourne, skipper MS Dhoni had chosen three medium-pacers and two spinners. At Brisbane, there were three medium-pacers, one spinner and Stuart Binny playing the all-rounder card. Thanks to his individual good showing against England, he was retained in the eleven, with two spinners and two medium pacers the preferred combination at Sydney.
Of course Monday’s selection was also influenced by the conditions, cloud-cover and rain having a major say on the day. Even so, despite the need to play two spinners at the SCG, the team management still preferred to keep Binny in the mix.
It could point towards Dhoni’s new-found confidence in Binny’s ability, particularly since he is also part of the World Cup squad and the skipper has professed the need for a swing-bowling all-round option over the past season. This might be the shape India’s bowling attack, and indeed lower-order ? takes when the World Cup comes around.
In the meantime, a new ploy emerged within this chosen bowling combination. On Sunday, in his pre-match conference, Dhoni had said that both Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja were available for selection. He had also hinted that they won’t be playing since there was no need to push players with niggles and hurt their chances ahead of the World Cup. Jadeja in particular was under the scanner since his fielding ability from the deep was still under some doubt, as per the skipper. Also, he was seen leaving for the hotel with his left shoulder wrapped up and an ice-pack in place. Clearly he was a non-starter, yet at the toss he found a place in the playing eleven.
Did the team management pre-empt that the England game in Perth would be their only shot at making the final and as such all experimentation (in a competitive game) needed to be done by Monday. If so, the selection of two left-arm spinners, Jadeja and Axar Patel, in the same eleven is perfectly understandable.