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India have the firepower to go all out in England

Harsha Bhogle

Posted: Dec 30, 2011 at 1256 hrs IST

: So it seems everyone wants to anoint India as favorites for the T20 World Championship. It’s a nice thought but it can be a poisoned chalice. In recent times, only Australia have worn that tag well and as recently as a few days ago the final of the IPL was contested by two teams who weren’t on anyone’s short list! The longer the game the greater the chance the favorites will come through. If football was played over 20 minutes Manchester United and Barcelona may not have been in the final.

Having said that, India seem to possess the right kind of players; young fellows who get on with it with hardly an eye on the scoreboard. That is the way in this game — one of the most thrilling moments of the IPL was when Sehwag and Dilshan smashed the Deccan Chargers around from a scoreboard that read 0-2! But to be able to do that teams must, ideally, bat deep and that is where India are well served.

The ideal way to go about it is to have five batsmen, a keeper and a batting all-rounder in the top 7. If there is a second batting all-rounder in that mix, it is even better. No 8 must necessarily be a bowling all-rounder and of the three bowlers, one should be able to bat. India’s top seven are well served on this parameter with Sehwag, Gambhir, Raina, Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma, Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan. Irfan Pathan must be No 8 and with Harbhajan likely to get in, the batting looks like it has enough to counter most situations.

The bowling can be tricky though. Almost certainly India will play three seamers and Harbhajan (unless Ojha forces his way in which is not bad) and get the batsmen, at least four of whom bowled well at the IPL, to pitch in as fifth and sixth bowlers. Unfortunately, each of those is a spinner (slow bowler might be more accurate) and so India will need the conditions to help them just a bit. If, like in South Africa, the ball grips, India will have an embarrassment of riches but that is unlikely to happen in early season cricket in England. If it turns out the ball is seaming a fair bit, India might be tempted to play Irfan Pathan at No 7 and play Praveen Kumar.

Over the last month and a half, teams played with a seven and a half minute break after 10 overs. That can become a habit very quickly and, as we discovered during the IPL, fielding sides who were struggling in the first half were actually waiting for the time out. And as Anil Kumble told me he always put his best bowler on during the 11th over. Now teams will play 20 overs without a break, indeed that is how it had always been till the IPH, and that will mean even greater emphasis on the captain to be able to think on his feet.

With the exception of Sehwag and Gambhir, by their own standards, each of the Indian players has done well at the IPL and are in form. Sometimes we can raise too many questions about fatigue and ignore the fact that a player in form wants to play more games. If I was Raina or Rohit Sharma I would be waiting for June 5, even the 1st and the 3rd, in fact, when the teams play warm-up games.

I would also be very keen to see how England host the World T20 — the last time they hosted a big event, the 1999 World Cup they were efficient, as they always are, but there was no atmosphere. There was a job given to them and they carried it out as well as they normally do. But will we have the bugles, the DJs, the noise or will it be sterile? England is the one country that, in spite of pioneering T20 cricket, has never come to terms with the success of the IPL. I will be disappointed if the tickets are expensive (they should never be once TV rights guarantees you revenue), if bugles are banned and there is no celebration in the stands. This is a new game and we need to look at it differently.

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