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Saturday, February 26, 2011

World Cup 2011 - The Spin Gambit

It has become a regular feature to watch some of the teams start with spin during this World Cup. If one notices closely, these are countries who do not have enough firepower with the new ball. Countries like New Zealand whose best bowler is Dan Vettori or West Indies with Suleiman Benn opened their bowling in their matches against Australia and South Africa respectively. The supporting attack is not good enough for either teams to take wickets or contain the runs scored. Thus, the team management decided to slow down the pace of the ball to increase their chances of taking wickets. Even a team like Bangladesh, which has three left-arm spinners, has refused to take the bait of adding more slow bowlers in their team - maybe that is why they struggled to put it across (153 - 138 in Castrol Index).

It came as a surprise then that the South African team also followed the same manner and started the bowling with Johan Botha. In fact, the team had three spinners in their team - a first for a team that prides on pace and speed. It was probably the lack of a good third bowler that made the Proteas think on the lines of having a three-prong spin attack. The Castrol Index of South Africa was 164 against 107 of West Indies - if only the team had a bowler like Ntini (in his prime) or Shaun Pollock, the difference would have been much more - such was the domination of the team. Morkel also does not benefit by the low bounce - a disadvantage for him especially since he thrives on the bounce his height can generate.

Australia has no such worries - their fast bowling trio of Lee, Tait and Mitch have been gunning past their opponents after the initial hiccups in the warm-up matches. Notice the domination in their match against the Kiwis (182 to 83 in Castrol Index) - Vettori had no answers to the might of the Oz even though his team was high on determination after the earthquake back home. The return of Bollinger will be a dampener though. Vettori might have had thoughts of early breakthroughs after seeing the Australian batsmen struggle against spin in the early matches but this one was different - there was no help to the trundlers on the Nagpur pitch negating the opening gambit.

Pakistan's attack looks balanced with bowlers like Shoaib, Razzaq and Umar Gul at the beginning, followed by Afridi and Ajmal. They have followed the traditional strategies teams have followed over years and that was good enough to result in a performance against the Kenyans that was dominating, to say the least (227-83).

Starting with spin might be good against teams that are relatively weak against spin but against the home teams  it is a recipe for disaster. Hence, the team management would do well to take the horses-for-courses approach in future matches.
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