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Too many questions for Dhoni

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Too many questions for Dhoni

Any Indian fan right now would kill to find out, what exactly was going on in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s head when he handed the ball over to Ashish Nehra to bowl the final over with South Africa needing 13 runs to win, and Robin Peterson on strike and Du Plessis at the other end.

It was not as if Dhoni had no other options. Harbhajan Singh should have been his most likely canditate, giving away 53 runs till then in his 9 overs and accounting for the extremely dangerous trio of Amla, de Villiers and Duminy. Nehra, on the other hand, was wicketless; and had gone for 49 runs in his 8 overs, till then. The last over he had bowled till then was the 37th over; clearly, was it not too much of a risk to entrust a bowler who had not been in the thick of things for the last five overs and who still had not shaken off the cobwebs of injury, with the most important over of the match?

There is still too much confusion within the Indian ranks and they have still have not lived upto their tag as ‘favourites’. Despite a rollicking start in Dhaka, India have recorded unimpressive wins against Ireland and Netherlands, with a tie against England to boot, not counting the loss to South Africa. Mathematically though there remains a very unlikely chance that India may not qualify, that probability is extremely thin. But Dhoni would have wanted much more emphatic performances from his team. West Indies loom ahead, always a dangerous opposition and after that, the quarter-finals.

The bowling conundrum is still not fixed and Kirsten & Co must be tearing their hair out. It now makes no sense not to play Ashwin despite Dhoni’s comments that ‘Chawla needs more games!’. This is a World Cup, not a practice tournament and India needs to play its best players. Ashwin might be mentally strong, but if he is in India’s scheme of things for this tournament, then he deserves a game as soon as possible. Chawla has been tried and tested, way too often. Ashwin deserves a place now.

But for whom? There is no question of replacing Zaheer and Harbhajan. And despite playing 4 games already, India are still not sure which bowling combo will suit them: a two spinners-two pacers combo or a three pacers-one spinner combo. Dhoni might prefer to play ‘horses for courses’ but for the sake of team stability, perhaps it would be to choose one of the two above and stick to it.

I would personally go for the two spinner-two pacer combination. Munaf Patel, despite being clobbered by Botha, is still a better bowler than Nehra or Sreesanth at present, and he can partner Zaheer. Again, however much the pitch may help seamers, this is still the subcontinent and conditions will help the spinners, more often than not. Chawla has been tried and tested, it is time for Ashwin to be given a go. At the very least, Dhoni should try him again West Indies and see how it goes.

After the batting collapse against South Africa, murmurs are also being heard about the famed batting lineup. There have been calls for Yusuf Pathan to be dropped and Raina to be brought in. Again, personally, I believe such murmurs are baseless. Yusuf Pathan has mostly been coming into bat late into the innings and at such a stage, he has no other choice than to hit out. More times than most, he will lose his wicket but the one time, he does not, he is likely to win the game for you. Yusuf Pathan should be given the license to hit, while the other batsmen in the team must begive more specific roles.

Despite their frailties, India still are a strong side and it would be a mistake for any country to underestimate them. A nice comfortable win against West Indies should get them back into a positive mindset to confront the much tougher challenges ahead.

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