Lacklustre India look to bounce back

The hosts will have to contend with a strong Pakistan bowling attack.

Trouble in Paradise: MS Dhoni's captaincy has come under attack after a string of poor results.


AHMEDABAD:
The only thing wrong with the current Indian team is that they cannot bat or bowl or field. Almost all these inadequacies were apparent in the five-wicket trouncing at the hands of arch rivals Pakistan in first Twenty20 International at Bangalore. As the teams progress to Ahmedabad for the second fixture on Friday, their lots couldn’t be more in contrast. While the home team seeks to remedy the several maladies that plagued it on Christmas Day, Pakistan can afford to sit back in the comfort of a deadly, diverse bowling attack.

Trouble begins right at the top for India, although that wasn’t quite palpable in the last game. Ajinkya Rahane sparkled with 42, but Gautam Gambhir consumed 41 balls for his 43 and looked distinctly uncomfortable against a quality Pakistan attack. India fell from 77 for no loss to 133 for nine in the space of 10 overs, as their vaunted middle order perished to a rash of shots. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina were the only other batsmen to reach double figures as the hosts struggled to last their entire quota. Although debutant Bhuvaneshwar Kumar brought India back into the game with a three-wicket burst, none of the others stood up to be counted on a day when the part-timer bowlers cost the home team dear.

Ashwin missed

Pace bowlers Bhuvaneshwar, Ashok Dinda and Ishant Sharma picked up all the five wickets to fall and bowled economically, but the pie-chucking trio of Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh were massacred by Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. Dhoni’s decision to give the last over to Jadeja, who replaced R. Ashwin and conceded the winning six to Malik, also came in for a lot of criticism, as did they captain’s call to omit seasoned off-spinner from the playing eleven.

Dhoni’s captaincy across formats has been under suspicion of late and this latest defeat to the arch rivals only fanned the fire. His counterpart Hafeez said an Ashwin-less India had bolstered his team. “Ashwin was not there in this team. So our plan was that if we play out the new ball, then their spinners are not world-class; I know Yuvraj is in great form, but when you don't have a world-class spinner then we can dominate,” he said.

Superb bowling

Aside from the Chennai bowler, India also have the option of including the dashing Ambatti Rayudu to beef up the batting and stake a claim on a series-equaling win. Pakistan’s bowling cupboard appears to be spilling over. In the gigantic Mohammad Irfan and the wrong-footed Sohail Tanvir they have a deadly left-arm pace bowling combination. Umar Gul as first change is always dangerous with his yorkers, and Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Hafeez round up possibly the most effective bowling attack in the world.

But Pakistan’s batting is prone to collapse. At Bangalore, they lost openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad, and motor-mouth Umar Akmal cheaply. They were reeling on 12/3 before Hafeez and Malik launched a comeback. Once Hafeez was out, Pakistan looked set to implode again, before the last-over six saved them the day.  Anything can happen in a format such as this, and whichever team wins, the spectators can expect another cracked at Motera’s Sardal Patel Stadium on Friday.

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