Dhoni backs under-fire bowlers

Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni bats during a training session as groundstaff prepare the pitch in New Delhi

New Delhi: Mar 9, 2011

India will look to wrap up a convincing victory over rock-bottom Netherlands in the World Cup on Wednesday and virtually make sure of their quarter-final berth.

India are the only team who have yet to taste defeat in their group and that record is unlikely to be broken against the under-performing Dutch who have still to register a win.

The host nation are on top of Group B with five points. England have as many points but have played a game more and have a worse run rate while West Indies and South Africa have four points each.

But thanks to some topsy-turvy results in the group and the tied game against England, India are technically not assured of a place in the last eight as yet.

A strong performance against the Dutch will not only give India a strong net run rate but also pave their way to the knockout round. The only weak link for the Indians has been their bowling which has been exposed time and again.

India’s frontline bowlers failed to find much success against a spirited Ireland and had it not been for a five-wicket haul by part-time spinner Yuvraj Singh, they could have been in trouble.

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, however, tried to play down the indifferent form of his bowlers. “We are showing signs of improvement, which is good,” he said.

“I feel it’s important to peak at the right time because it’s a long tournament so definitely what we have seen is slow and gradual improvement on the bowling side.”

Yuvraj’s show with the ball might tempt Dhoni to leave out an off-colour leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and bring in attacking off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

Former Australian Test batsman Mark Waugh said India’s strong batting compensated for their lack of specialist bowling options. Writing in the Times of India, he said: “The batsmen compensate their bowling arsenal and on paper, under these conditions, they possess one of the best batting line-ups in the tournament.”

“India do have the option of going in with five bowlers in place of the four that they usually prefer. I do not, however, think that is necessarily the right way to go about it because Yuvraj Singh can do a good job as a fifth bowler and bowl his quota,” he added.

The home side are unlikely to be tested against the Netherlands, who ran England close in their opener, thanks to a sparkling 119 from Ryan ten Doeschate, but have since struggled.

The Dutch scored an impressive 292 against England but slumped to a huge 215-run defeat to the West Indies and lost by 231 runs against South Africa.

Skipper Peter Borren said Wednesday’s game at New Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium would be a tough proposition. “India are a tough side as their batting line-up has some unbelievable cricketers,” said Borren.

“It’s going to be a real challenge for us to play against them in India. Hopefully, we can do a little bit better against India than we did against South Africa.”