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India aim to start well

India aim to start well
India will have to quickly decide on their team combination as they launch their ICC World Twenty20 campaign against minnows Afghanistan on Wednesday, hoping to get into the groove for the tougher battles ahead.

A win will ensure a Super Eights berth for champions of 2007 edition even before they take on England in their second and final group league match on September 23. In their only meeting till date, India had comfortably beaten Afghanistan by seven wickets during the last edition of World T20 in the West Indies.

While the battle of attrition will start once India take on England, a smooth start against the Afghans will certainly help the 'Men in Blue' hit a good rhythm and the team management will have an idea about the performance of their preferred combination.

The Indians are faced with the dilemma of whether to go in with five specialist bowlers or opt for the additional batsman, considering that bowling in the death overs has been a worry.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not someone who is known to tinker with the playing XI and believes in giving his preferred players a long rope. In fact, he has indicated that he would go in with four specialist bowlers and rely on his part-timers to fill in the fifth bowler's quota.

But if the part-timers do not perform upto expectation, he is willing to go in with five specialist bowlers.

The batting order looks more or less settled with seasoned opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, solid middle-order consisting of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni himself, it will be interesting to see what kind of bowling combination Dhoni-Fletcher pair use.

While pace spearhead Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan are two automatic selections, there is a strong case for seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji who has had some good performances in this format in the Indian Premier League. Balaji has a lot of variety and is an effective bowler at the death overs, though he went for runs in the warm-up game against Pakistan. Of late, the nature of the 22-yard strip at the R Premadasa Stadium has undergone a change and the faster bowlers have been getting a lot of help. Therefore, if India go onto play three seamers, it will again be a toss-up between in-form Ravichandran Ashwin and comeback man Harbhajan Singh.

As far as batting is concerned both Sehwag and Gambhir didn't have a good time against New Zealand and an unfancied Afghanistan attack is just the stuff they need to find some form going their way. Gambhir is fit and would be keen to regain his form. Sehwag, who had missed the last two World T20 editions due to injury, will look to make amends in a format where he hasn't performed up to expectations during international matches. All eyes will be on Kohli who has been in stupendous form in all three formats.
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