Cricket’s slam-bang season is about to begin.
Bangladesh plays host to the ICC World T20 which will be followed by the Indian Premier League to be played across India, United Arab Emirates and, in all probability, Bangladesh.
The Indian team management is under fire with cricket gurus like Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell raising questions about the performance of coach Duncan Fletcher and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. While Gavaskar felt Fletcher should be removed, Chappell thought Dhoni’s on-field leadership was uninspiring and that he was going through the motions.
While no one will recommend sacking of the coach at this juncture, with the World Cup 11 months away, one can well imagine Gavaskar’s frustration having watched (literally) the debacles in South Africa, New Zealand and in the recent Asia Cup in Bangladesh. For someone who has put his country’s honour above everything else, the outburst was long overdue.
As India goes into the World T20, it is time Dhoni (and Fletcher) instil confidence in the Indian fan. While his captaincy looked monotonous in the longer formats of the game (Tests and ODIs), Dhoni is a master in the shortest form. His belief that his team should bank on their experience in the IPL to do well in Dhaka shows his confidence.
India don’t start as favourites – the tag resting with Sri Lanka on current form. Australia (after thumping hosts South Africa in their T20 series) and New Zealand can give the Lankans a run for their money. India could be considered underdogs and will do well to go to their age-old strength — spin.
The current team has three regular tweakers in Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra and a few parttimers such as Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. One believes it will be the combination of these gentlemen that will make a difference on the slow wickets in Bangladesh.
The theory doing the rounds is that Dhoni does not have much confidence in Mishra but the leg-spinner’s show in the Asia Cup match against Pakistan should give him an edge above others who lack variety.
Like Sunil Narine of the West Indies and Lankan Ajantha Mendis, Mishra is the only Indian tweaker who can offer variety to keep batsmen guessing.
Dhoni could well follow the strategy employed by Gavaskar during the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985.
In spite of a slew of medium pacers led by Kapil Dev, Gavaskar used Laxman Sivaramakrishnan beautifully to make inroads into line-ups that boasted master players of spin. With his variety and guile, Siva played a crucial role in India winning the tournament.
If India have to perform well at the World T20, they need to revert to the ‘spin is king’ theory with Mishra playing the lead role.
(The writer is a former Cricket Club of India captain and Bombay University cricketer)