India are likely to go in with five specialist bowlers to plug their bowling loopholes when they take on the mighty Australians in its opening `Super Eight` fixture of the ICC World Twenty20 on Friday. The comprehensive victory against England and Harbhajan Singh`s brilliant comeback has raised questions as to what exactly will be a winning combination against George Bailey`s men who have looked good in both their group league matches against Ireland and West Indies respectively.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has given clear indications that he would go in with five specialist bowlers, a move which will mean that India will have one batsman short. In that case, either opener Virender Sehwag or Yuvraj Singh may have to sit out of the match and Dhoni admitted that it would be a "tough decision". While the England match was won with five bowlers, it was more about testing a different combination as the result had no bearing on the Super Eights classification.
It will be interesting to see what bowling combination Dhoni would prefer for the first `super eight` game and whether he would opt for three spinners or three pacers. On current form, Lakshmipathy Balaji is a better bowler at the death overs than the 33-year-old Zaheer Khan mainly because of the variety of slower deliveries that he has in his repertoire.
The two key batsmen in the Australian set-up are left-handers David Warner and Mike Hussey. The presence of the duo at the top of the order certainly means that Harbhajan`s inclusion is necessary because of his stupendous record against the left-handers.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who was rested against England, will also make a comeback into the playing eleven. The other certainty in the bowling department is Irfan Pathan, who has been providing the team with breakthroughs regularly. The batting, however, bears a much more settled look with the good news being that Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma are back among runs. The only thing to worry will be Yuvraj Singh`s place in batting order. The talented left-hander has been struggling with the bat.
While ODI matches give him a chance to settle down, the number of dot balls Yuvraj has played in the recent matches is something that he needs to figure out. Although the 22-yard strip at the R Premadasa Stadium will assist the slower bowlers, the Aussie fast bowlers are likely to test the Indian batsman with short-pitched stuff. The Indian team was seen preparing to counter the bouncers and the players were seen playing the horizontal bat shot during the nets.
A lot will depend on how Virat Kohli bats as he has been in the form of his life. Even Hussey had admitted yesterday that the Aussies were expecting Kohli to have one of his rare off-days against them. Rohit`s half-century has certainly boosted his confidence and the innings has come at the right time as the margin for error is too little at this stage of the tournament. The main threat for India will be all-rounder Shane Watson who in prime form having won back-to-back MoM awards. Watson has been cleverly used by skipper Bailey as he has proved to be a potent partnership breaker.
The Indian batsmen will need to be careful against Watson. Left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc can prove to be a handful but it will be chinaman bowler Brad Hogg who will need to play a big role. The only problem for Australia will be its middle-order which hasn`t been tested in the two matches which were single-handedly won by Watson. The all-rounder has taken full advantage of the Powerplay overs to slaughter the bowlers. With Warner and Hussey for company, the `terrific trio` make up for a superb top-order.
Tomorrow`s match will be a duel between two bowling units where Indian spinners are pitted against Aussie pacers in what promises to be a fantastic form. Squads: India: MS Dhoni (c), Gautam Gambhir, Ravichandran Ashwin, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh. Australia: George Bailey (c), Dan Christian, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hogg, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.