BARBADOS: India are faced with a selection dilemma on whether to strengthen their pace attack or rely on part time spinners when they brace up for the crucial Super Eights match against Australia in the T20 World Cup on Friday.
The Indians have a clutch of part-time spinners, who have filled up the slot of the fifth bowler but the think tank may be tempted to tinker with the composition and bring in a specialist fast bowler with the Kengsington Oval expected to favour the quickies.
Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who was rested for the South Africa match, is almost certain to come back into the team for the encounter which promises to be a thrilling battle of skill and nerves.
With the left-handed Gautam Gambhir also declared fit for the game, the Indian batting order looks solid but it the selection of the bowlers which will make the task of the team management difficult.
Both the sides have big hitters in their ranks but when it comes to bowling, the Aussies, who have won three back-to-back 50-over World Cup titles, have the edge.
Their pace quartet – Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson — is about the most lethal attack in the tournament.
Considering that Gambhir is just about recovering from his indisposition and has naturally not been at his best, India’s task would be a lot more difficult if he fails to get going.
In such a scenario, a lot would depend on Suresh Raina who made an electrifying 60-ball 101 against South Africa.
Given Raina’s form and his ability to win matches on his own, the Australians would have a strategy in place to tie him down. Short balls could be used more sparing against the left hander.
Yuvraj Singh, who has regained his touch with scores of 23 (Afghanistan) and 37 (South Africa) would have to be on top of his game to take the fight into the Aussies camp.
He could be destructive on his day, caring very little for the reputation of the bowlers, as he showed while making a match-winning 84 against Australia on his ODI debut in the Champions Trophy (2000) as a colt.
Murali Vijay, Yusuf Pathan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja would have to contribute with the bat if India are to get past their first hurdle in the Super Eights.
A victory against Australia on Friday would enhance their chances of qualifying for the semifinals.
Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar, if both of them are selected, will have to show more discipline with the ball to keep the likes of Shane Watson, David Warner, Michael Clarke, the Hussey brothers — David and Michael — and Cameroon White quiet at the crease.
India have a bevy of spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja and part-time tweakers Pathan, Yuvraj in their ranks, who could possibly stop the Australian batter in their tracks. But then, it depends to be seen how they perform under pressure.
India could answer Australia’s pace with spin and bat with the same aggression and tenacity of their opponents. But when it comes fielding, the men from Down Under hold a distinct edge.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar and Rohit Sharma.
Australia: Michael Clarke (C), Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Nathan Hauritz, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Dirk Nannes, Tim Paine, Steven Smith, Shaun Tait, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White and Daniel Christian. (PTI)