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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Indians on a tour to the United Kingdom

The Indians have already started playing the first leg of their tour to Ireland, England and Scotland. They are scheduled to play matches against Ireland, Scotland, Pakistan and South Africa in this leg, before concentrating on the test matches against England.

Both South Africa and India have a match each against Ireland, which should suffice for acclimitising to the conditions (ground and weather). The Proteans have a relatively new look to the team with Greame Smith and Shaun Pollock rested and Kallis being made the captain. But, the bowling seems to be formidable enough with Ntini, Nel, Hall, Langeveldt, Steyn around. The bowling seems to be more suited to the Proteans but the Indians are capable of doing a good job with their spinners, who can throw a surprise. Batting on both sides have a look of experience but the form-book is also a necessary parameter to be considered.

The Indians have already won their match against Ireland on the basis of their tight bowling attack (not disciplined though - 16 wides and 1 no-ball) and the batting stars (Ganguly and Gambhir). Sachin Tendulkar, as his been is his recent ways, has donated his wicket to a relatively unknown bowler (Roger Whelan) to a straight-forward delivery. The Indian pacers had a decent stint, getting a hang of the swing on offer - though it can get only better. To their advantage, they have as their coach, one of the finest swing bowlers for India in recent times - Venkatesh Prasad (who had a five-for in the 1996 tour in Lords). He should be able to guide the team on what are the best lengths to aim for.

Sreesanth and RP Singh did their usual stuff - without being spectacular. Sreesanth needs to be less emotional and concentrate more on giving away less runs than on theatrics. Agarkar's figures were miserly, to say the least - has experience finally made a mark in the appearance of maturity in his bowling. Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar rolled their arms to bowl a total of 10 overs for 39 runs - decent for a fifth bowler. But, the revelation has to be a young 18 year old who goes by the name of Piyush Chawla. He had yet another 3-wicket haul in his 2nd ODI (though they have come against Bangladesh and Ireland). He seems to have variations in his bowling (with a pretty decent accuracy as well) at such an early age in his career. It is quite realistic to think that he would do well against the Proteans, knowing their weakness against spin. One only wishes he is treated well and handled with care. This is where Chandu Borde's experience would come in handy. This boy will be able to emulate Anil Kumble, if his head stays on ground.

The batsmen have a tougher challenge - to be able to negotiate the swing on offer. In England, the threat of swing is always there - unlike other conditions where the new ball is the only aid to make the ball swing more. The experienced batsmen need to show the way to the youngsters in the team and hand-hold them in their ventures on the field. It was quite surprising to notice that it was MS Dhoni who prefered to make way for the debutant Rohit Sharma in the match against Ireland, instead of players like Sachin or Sourav - though it was officially announced that Dhoni was down with a slight fever. What does a match against the minnows matter to giants like them is anyone's guess? After the World Cup debacle, it seemed more sensible for the Indian think-tank to bat first after winning the toss - remember what happened when India decided to practice playing first against Bangladesh.

There is not much that comes out of a match like this, as it is just the first of a series of five - that too against the minnows. So, who will play in the first match against the Proteans? Rohit Sharma would make way for MS Dhoni to return to the team whereas it is interesting to see whether the Indians keep Dinesh Karthick in the team or include Zaheer Khan in place of him. I would like to see Zaheer Khan back in place of RP Singh and Sreesanth being replaced by Romesh Powar. Spin seems to be India's weapon against the Proteans - even on the Irish soil.
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