Two successive bad bowling performances are probably not enough to write off the No 2 side in the world, but questions have been rightly raised whether this Indian side possesses the firepower to go the distance © Getty Images
Two successive bad bowling performances are probably not enough to write off the No 2 side in the world, but questions have been rightly raised whether this Indian side possesses the firepower to go the distance © Getty Images

 

By Suneer Chowdhary

 

Two successive bad bowling performances are probably not enough to write off the No 2 side in the world, but questions have been rightly raised whether this Indian side possesses the firepower to go the distance.

 

There is a growing belief that team India will be found wanting towards the later stages of the tournament against a stronger opponent who could thwart the side from batting their way out of trouble. Again, not without reason. Rarely would you have a scenario where a batting line-up would keep bailing the team out, despite the esteemed presence of some of the best in the business, in a format such as this World Cup has thrown up.

 

To win the silverware, India will need three successive wins from the knock-outs, roughly translating into three successive, excellent batting performances – especially with the portrayal of India’s wafer-thin bowling resources. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.

 

One needs to cast one’s mind only as far as the previous World Cup. Not for a minute do I want to suggest that Australia went on to clinch their hat-trick of wins due to their batting alone. But, they had exhibited that with the attitude to do their business as the side needs to, one can get the big scores irrespective of who the opposition bowler is. Especially if the team has batsmen oozing with talent, waiting to queue up and taking the gauntlet.

 

Australia played 11 games in the tournament. They batted first in six of those games and made 300 plus scores on five of those six occasions. The time they missed out on the 300 was in the final and it wasn’t because they fell short. Their overs did – ending on 281 for four in 38 overs.

 

So, at least, history suggests that it can be done. It is a different matter altogether that to go with their batting, Australia possessed a decent attack as well.

 

This brings me to one niggling thought that stuck me on Sunday on hearing Mahendra Singh Dhoni speak after the game. He said, “I think the second half was slightly better for batting because the ball was coming on to the bat nicely. It was not that there was too much dew on the field, but just enough to ease batting a bit. It was a bit difficult to turn the ball. You didn’t see consistent turn from the spinners and only when they were bowling a bit slow they got some turn. I think it got a bit difficult as compared to the first innings.”

 

Contrast this to what Dhoni had said at the end of the warm-up win against Australia, hoping for the track to not be as assistive to spin bowling as the one at Chinnaswamy then was.

 

There isn’t much scope left, in that case, for the curators. Getting a perfectly right pitch, which offers some help for the spinners through the entire duration of the game and yet allows batsmen to play their strokes and get big scores is a factor of not only the curator’s aptitude but also the weather. As bad as the bowling looked in the England game, the question that fills me with trepidation is: Which one of the two tracks does Dhoni really prefer: the one against Australia or the one against England?

 

Then, again, there is that one other factor that should fill the Indian fan with optimism. Indian bowling is prone to not following set patterns in recent times. They bowled nothing but rubbish in the first Test at Centurion against South Africa and yet, came back to bowl South Africa out in their second at the Kingsmead in Durban. Similarly, Sri Lanka were allowed scores of 520 and 642 in the first couple of Tests in 2010 before India won the third by capturing the 20 wickets.

 

Of course, comparing Tests and ODIs could be the case of comparing apples with oranges, but the one common factor between them is that the think-tank remains the same. They are the same set of leaders, motivators and if one may call them, the extractors of wins from seemingly hopeless situations in the past.

 

The team have been notoriously slow-starters in tournaments like in World Cup of 2007, World T20 in the same year (they tied with Pakistan and lost to New Zealand before winning it), Champions Trophy in 2009 amongst some of the others. With an allowance of six games in the group stage, India does have a better format available to them to get going.

 

Especially since they have the willow-wielders to ‘De Ghumake’!

 

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here: @suneerchowdhary)