India v Afghanistan, World Twenty20, Group A, Colombo September 18, 2012

India to start with four bowlers


India will begin their World Twenty20 campaign with a four-bowler combination but if that fails, MS Dhoni will include the fifth specialist bowler in the XI. India have had mixed results in their two warm-up games which they played with five bowlers, who defended 147 against Sri Lanka but conceded 186 in 19.1 overs to lose to Pakistan.

"Yes, bowling has always been a bit of a concern for us," Dhoni said after the optional practice session at the Nondescripts Cricket Club in Colombo. "Our bowling line-up is slightly weaker than our batting. But we have experienced bowlers who can do the needful and also the part-timers. We are looking to play with seven batsmen to start off the tournament which means the part-timers will have to do a really good job so that we can sustain with those seven batsmen. Otherwise, as the tournament progresses and [if] we still find that our bowling line-up is a bit too weak, we will have to go with six batters and five bowlers."

Four bowlers or five? Seven batsmen or six? This quandary always looms large before every limited-overs game India play, and is magnified even more on the eve of a global tournament. Various arguments are put forth in support of playing either four or five bowlers. None of them seem convincing enough, and all of them can be argued against.

The overriding perception, not without some evidence, is that India's bowling is so weak that even the fifth bowler will get hit, so you might as well play the extra batsman to score the runs the bowling is anyway going to leak. It is said that India's batting is so strong that the seventh batsman is going to be wasted, so you might as well play the fifth bowler, and, well, hope that he does better than the part-timers.

For the moment, Dhoni will hope his part-timers are able to get in some reasonable overs. Only one of them, Yuvraj Singh, bowled in the warm-up games, that too, just one over. Dhoni, though, was confident his attack would come good during the tournament, despite letting Pakistan achieve the target of 186 from a position of 91 for 5 in the 12th over.

"I think we are going good," Dhoni said. "Overall, it [the warm-up games] gave exposure to our bowlers as to what needs to be done. We have done well in death bowling also but we have not been very consistent with it. It is a bit of a worry. Fast bowlers are putting in a bit more effort to get into the groove. In this format if you have the variation you can go all out and still do well. I think the bowlers will shape up well and we will try different strategies and field placements to complement them."

Dhoni won the 2011 World Cup with the four-bowler strategy and there is no guessing which combination he prefers. "My ideal bowling combination will be three fast bowlers, one spinner and a few part-timers. It depends on the wicket, what kind of part-timers really suit the role and where you are playing. In India, with the slow wickets, the part-timers get into the game really well. It depends on how the wicket is behaving. Even in Sri Lanka, depending on different venues, the attacks will be very different."

Four bowlers will mean seven batsmen in the XI again, and Dhoni reasoned that the aggressiveness of the India line-up required the extra batsman. "It is not as if we are playing with seven batsmen right now. I think for the last 50-55 years we have played seven batsmen, if not more. I think there were instances where we played with six batsmen in 50-over games. There are quite a few of our batsmen who like to express themselves which means they may take the bowlers on right from the very first or second delivery. They would like to have the cushioning of that one more extra batsman. As I said it is something we would like to start off with, and if the batsmen keep putting on scores consistently then we may look at five specialist bowlers and a few part-timers."

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shiv on September 19, 2012, 13:46 GMT

    I think people are taking India's bowling as weak a bit too far. Well haters will always do, its their job but the fans too? Agreed the bowlers have not had the best of games of late but India has done well with similar kind of an attack earlier on many occasions (remember Joginder Sharma?) and im confident that we will do well again. Its just about having faith in the team. Bleed BLUE.

  • Simon on September 19, 2012, 13:27 GMT

    Joking aside....Looking forward to watching Dhoni and Kohli this tournament. Kohli looked awesome last year and no surprises regarding his current form.

  • Arun on September 19, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    Question is, whether all 7 batsmen gets a chance to play their part in 20 overs? Would be good if India goes with 6 batsmen + Irfan + 4 bowlers. Ashwin can chip in with some runs.. But Dhoni will stick to his plan of 7 batsmen regardless of the pitch!!

  • Simon on September 19, 2012, 12:34 GMT

    I wonder if India could play 10 batsman, with each batsman bowling 2 overs. And try and post 250. Then, when bowling, the player who gets smacked for the most runs gets a stern telling off from Dhoni who tells them the match didn't matter, that he's pretty happy with things, that they have no plans to change anything, that they're not concerned with the rankings and that he can draw positives from the match. Everybodys happy.

  • Deepak on September 19, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    @Titumir - What's the use of rankings when Bangladesh play all of their matches against teams like Netherlands, Scotland, Afghanistan etc? Those overrated bowlers will be shown their right place once they get to bowl against the likes of Gayle, de Villiers, Kohli, Sehwag, Dilshan, Watson, Warner etc.

  • Deepak on September 19, 2012, 10:48 GMT

    @TeamIndiaFliesBackHomeBeforeSemis - Good for you. But try posting your comments without excessive exclamatory marks (!!!) and "lol" at the end of every sentence. Thank you.

  • Manesh on September 19, 2012, 10:40 GMT

    @ TeamIndiaFliesBackHomeBeforeSemis. Your name shows how much jealousy you are on India. Normally fans will accept a name which will hail own team. It seems like you donot have faith in ur team..ha ha ha...poor chap

  • Jack on September 19, 2012, 10:09 GMT

    The bowlers available to Indian team are not world class. If the fifth bowler gives the same amount of runs and cannot take top order batsmen's wkts, then no point in playing the fifth bowler. Run rate can be checked by the usage of part-timers who bowl decently as this is T20. So part-timers EQUIVALENT to fifth bowler for Indian team. I think thats what DHONI believes.

  • jayaesh on September 19, 2012, 9:36 GMT

    Why dosen't the ICC allow subsitutes to take part like in other sports such as football,rugby,Hockey,basketball,volleyball instead of making cosmetic changes like powerplays. In the warm up matches teams are allowed to play wih 13 players but only 11 at a feild, this way a team can specialist batter till no.8 and six reular bowlers and all this debate about 7 batters and part time bowlers problem will vanish, two subsitutes or even is it too radical, i don't think so.....................

  • Waheed on September 19, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    it is the fact that India are weaker in bowling side.. but they are having the strong batting line in the tournament. Afghanistan without Hamid Hassan are looking weak in bowling too but if Afghanistan bat first then the match will be very entertaining. Afghan to beat India? hmmm a very rare chance as we know our team is inexperience but I guarantee we will give them a very good match.

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