R Ashwin © Getty Images
R Ashwin © Getty Images


By Murali Venkatesan


“The best time to improve is in the aftermath of a win” – Anonymous.


Observation # 1:


India should not rely on formulaic team selection. As the two warm-up games proved unequivocally, in subcontinental conditions, India should field at least two specialist spinners.Whether it is Piyush Chawla or Ravichandran Ashwin should be dictated by form – both of them are very different bowlers compared to Harbhajan Singh. Decision to play Chawla, simply because of the leg-spin/off-spin “variety” would be a flawed one. The exception to playing two specialist spinners are matches to be played in Mohali, as it is seamer-friendly and much more prone to dew-related issues in the latter part of the game.


Observation # 2:


India should open with Zaheer Khan and a spinner. This tactic is nothing new for Mahendra Singh Dhoni as he has used Ashwin to open routinely in the IPL. Yusuf bowls his off-spinners at a good pace. While some of them threaten to turn, many of them skid through with the arm. This would be especially valuable with the new ball on a couple of fronts. When Yusuf bowls in the middle overs, batsmen take five to six runs an over with simple nudges. In the early overs, the field is in and the batsmen would not be able to pick up singles easily. By taking the pace off the ball, the batsmen will need a lot more effort to hit boundaries with Yusuf on one end.


Observation # 3:


While Shantakumaran Sreesanth had an off day in the World Cup opener, he was swinging the ball late and troubling the batsmen – a couple of inside edges that went for boundaries could have very well landed up in the wicket column. In my mind, the big mistake was that he went round the wicket in the middle of his spell and gave away a 20 odd runs in that over. Before making such adjustments, I’m sure a word with the experienced Zaheer close at mid-off would help clear the “fog of war”. My guess is that he will be in contention only for the Mohali matches.


Observation # 4:


Irrespective of the fact that Virat Kohli scored a century, the manner in which he played bodes well for India. He played himself in, ran hard, punished the loose balls and avoided rash strokes. With his recent spate of good scores, the No 7 spot is a toss-up between Yuvraj Singh/SureshRaina/Yusuf, with Kohli firmly ensconced at # 4.  I would love to see Kohli bowl some seam-up stuff as well in the middle overs in the manner of Paul Collingwood.


Observation # 5:


Virender Sehwag batted through 47 overs. His average prior to that is 32 balls per innings. I am sure the rest of the teams are taking notice of Sehwag’s intent and follow through.However, even someone like Roqibul Hassan got away with bowling four consecutive dot balls using the slow bouncer at Sehwag. I am sure he will come up with his unique answers to this tactic. Also watching his innings reinforced to me how fantastic an effort Sachin Tendulakar’s unbeaten 200 was.Life is good!


(Murali is a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. When he gets time off from his cricketing duties, whether it be playing or watching cricket, he attends to his duties as a husband, father, and engineering new solar technology solutions)