This article was first published on ThirdManCricket.com
Unnecessary media attention drawn to the Virat Kohli argument with a journalist means that the Indian team has been spending more time answering questions about their favourite son’s behaviour, rather than on fine tuning the few chinks in their armoury.
Drama aside, this has been India’s best start to a World Cup ever. Even when India won the World Cup in 2011, they tied a game against England at the Bengaluru, unable to defend 338. A famous dive by Yusuf Pathan had saved India the blushes there.
This time, India has been clinical in its execution, against a disorganized Pakistan, ever-choking South Africa, and the fledgling UAE. Perhaps most surprising was South Africa’s abject surrender in its pursuit of India’s 307. Even more surprising in my mind, was their lack of answers to the counter-attack launched by Rahane and later Dhawan.
India have ticked most of the boxes so far. Dhawan is back in form with a hundred and a fifty. So is Kohli. Rahane and Raina have both come in around the 30th over and have taken the attack to the opposition scoring brisk fifties. Ashwin and more recently Sir Jadeja have bowled with control, bite, and have attacked the batsmen, particularly Ashwin. India have finally found their first-choice fast-bowling unit: Shami, the wicket-taker, Umesh with pace, and Mohit, the surprise package (who even managed to surprise Hashim Amla with a pacy bouncer). India’s fielding has been perhaps the best in this competition along with New Zealand. It’s no surprise that both those teams are at the top of the ladder in their respective groups.
Perhaps the two boxes India will need to tick are Rohit Sharma’s form (notwithstanding his fifty against the UAE), and it’s finishing. India will look to test those items today, and I truly hope that Dhoni promotes himself up the order to get some game time.
For the West Indies, this will be an opportunity to show that they are not pushovers against the top sides. AB DeVilliers has hammered them for two unbelievably fast hundreds in the last month and a half. Their skipper Jason Holder doesn’t know what has hit him each time AB has delivered an onslaught so powerful, people have become scared of the legend that AB has chalked out for himself.
Their bowling is toothless in the face of an attack, particularly as they rely on three frontline bowlers – Holder himself, Jerome Taylor and Suleiman Benn. The rest is a mix of medium pace from Sammy and Russell, and some part-time spin from Gayle and Samuels. For a fast, bouncy wicket like Perth, they will be well-served in including Kemar Roach. But who would this be at the expense of? Perhaps due to India’s ability against spin bowling, they could drop Benn. But it will still leave them with three frontline bowlers.
That just doesn’t cut it in my opinion. Not for a world cup winning side. On the batting front, with the rise of Lendl Simmons as a lower order finisher, they always look dangerous due to the plethora of strong power-hitters they have. The key for the West Indies is having either Gayle or Samuels kick on for a big score, which will pave the way for the lower order to attack.
Given India’s disciplined bowling in this World Cup, I don’t see that happening. India’s batting is also more than capable of chasing down whatever seemingly mammoth total the West Indies can put up, so my gut says India has this game.
My prediction is that India will win by 40 runs if they bat first, or by 5 wickets if they bat second. That’s just about the average winning margin in one day cricket. I only say so because the West Indian batsmen seem to rise to the occasion when they play India. Not sure what it is, but it could be the familiarity due to the IPL, their preference for the slower bowlers, or their liking for a big occasion, something that an India game these days, anywhere around the world, brings.
I trust Dhoni will have other plans though. 4-0 is on the cards.
Nikhil Puri is the co-founder of Third Man Cricket. For more information on Nikhil, read below:
Who am I? Well quite simply obsessed with cricket! That’s right, from the moment I started following the sport nothing else mattered, seriously! My all time favorite moment was April 2nd, 2011, at 10:47pm IST, when MS Dhoni played a stroke that was the defining moment for people of my generation, lofting Nuwan Kulasekera over long on to win India the World Cup after 28 long years. All through my childhood, spent in India and New Zealand, and then in the U.S. and the U.K., I longed for such a moment. Along the way, I’ve played a shitload of cricket too, to a pretty decent standard back in NZ and now ply my trade for the Maddogs of New York!
This quote from Steve Waugh, in his autobiography “Out of My Comfort Zone” sums me up:
“I was born with cricket in my blood and I’ll die that way. I’m sure of that, because even today, each time I drive past an oval and notice a game in progress, I’ll slow down to make certain I see the bowler deliver the ball with enthusiastic anticipation to a batsman who has equally ambitious aspirations, as the fielders hover with intent. There’s nothing like it, the excitement of the unknown. Once it seduces you, you’re hooked for life.”