With Ravichandran Ashwin in the side, India had a greater chance of keeping the pressure on Pakistan in the first T20 © Getty Images
Ravichandran Ashwin’s axing from the first T20 raised a few eyebrows and with all at stake in the series, Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that the off-spinner could be MS Dhoni’s best bet.
Did the omission of Ravichandran Ashwin from playing eleven cost India the first T20 international against Pakistan? Mohammad Hafeez, the touring captain thinks so and a vast majority of the Indian fans believe that India erred in not playing a specialist spinner. It isn’t so much about Ashwin alone, but a Piyush Chawla too may have added more to the bowling attack. With all the pressure of winning the second T20 and levelling things, Mahendra Singh Dhoni needs to tweak the make-up of his bowling attack.
India’s bowling resources look very thin and there doesn’t seem to be enough firepower to stem the flow of runs. In the first T20 international at Bangalore, it was only due to Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s efforts that India were in with a chance. He was undoubtedly the stand-out as he backed his strengths and stuck to his orthodox plan. That he conceded only nine runs in four overs speaks of his control and discipline – something the other bowlers can take a cue from.
Ashok Dinda looks lively as he gets pace and some movement to trouble the batsman. He can surprise the batsman as the ball would come faster at them than they expect. In the last two years or so, he has grown as a fast-bowler and shown tremendous improvement – which has been rewarded with regular call-ups to the national side. However, he needs that extra bit of control as he tends to bowl one poor delivery after putting in the hard yards. For example, he bowled a good last over against England in the second T20 international, but the last ball ultimately cost India the game.
Ishant Sharma comeback to the T20 side was good as he was hitting the right areas consistently. These are encouraging signs and India must play him in the shorter formats. With his height and the extra bit of pace, he is in a different mould when compared to his fellow team-mates. He not only bowled with pace in the first T20 international, but also purchased some movement. That had Shoaib Malik in all sorts of trouble and Ishant could have had him dismissed. Had that inside-edge crashed into the stumps, who know? Then again, these are all ifs and buts.
Dhoni perhaps banked on the fact that Yuvraj Singh did well against England and that Ravindra Jadeja would also roll his arm over. However, Yuvraj isn’t your main bowler as he plays a support role. Any wickets he gets are always a bonus as he has been the fifth bowler in the side. What he has done during the 2011 World Cup and in the T20s against England is truly commendable, but you cannot expect him to maintain that level of consistency. Jadeja too isn’t your frontline option and is the all-rounder in the side.
Pakistan handled Yuvraj very well and it shows that they have done their homework. They didn’t charge at him – a mistake some of the English batsmen committed – but instead held back and waited for him to bowl half-trackers. Considering that, Yuvraj may have to rework his strategy of inviting the batsmen as the Pakistanis are much better players of spin when compared to the Englishmen.
One can see that the fast-bowlers were fantastic in the first T20 international, but India lost the plot once Jadeja and the part-timers came into the attack. With an Ashwin in the side, India had a greater chance of keeping the pressure on Pakistan and not letting them run away with the contest. Chawla too has a tendency to get hit and that can prove costly.
The Ahmedabad wicket has traditionally suited the slower bowlers and the pacemen have to bend their backs for some assistance. With all at stake, Ashwin seems to be Dhoni’s best bet. Is Captain Cool thinking along the same lines? Indian fans would hope he does.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)