ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
India v Ireland, Group B, World Cup 2011, Bangalore
Will Bangalore produce another run-fest?
Ireland's upset of England has turned their match against India into a much-awaited game, and one that could have telling consequences on the Cluster of Calamity that is Group B
Sharda Ugra in Bangalore
March 4, 2011
The summer is racing towards Bangalore but temperatures inside the Chinnaswamy Stadium are dropping from the highs of the India v England contest last week. One bunch of stands has been cleared of chairs, the concrete bleachers are back and the capacity of the ground has gone up from 38,000 to 39, 221, with half available for public sale. There are no laathi charges outside the stadium, no crowds thronging the gates and tickets for the match are all sold out.
The build-up to India v Ireland would have been quieter had it not been for Wednesday's upset and the general churning in Group B that has sent this Cluster of Calamity into a state of flux at the start of the third week of the World Cup.
Suddenly, India v Ireland on Sunday is a match where the Indians must hit the ground at full stride and the Irish cannot afford to slip for fear of being condemned for having celebrated far too much on the days following their victory over England.
Ireland put out allrounder John Mooney and a short burst of Wednesday's hero Kevin O'Brien for the waiting cameramen and reporters on Friday; the Indians stayed true to the BCCI's intentions to have their players available in only diet-sized bites, once the day before a match and then an hour after each match is over. At one stage, there was a strong rumour that given the high demand for interviews of Yusuf Pathan's newly-acquired talking parrots, the two birds would be forced to turn up for the media conference. At the first sign of television cameras, it is reliably learnt, that the parrots just fled, or rather, flew.
An Indian net session can often represent a film clip from cuckoo land, but that is being disrespectful to a bunch of the country's most elite high-performance athletes, who showed off multi-disciplinary skills on Friday. The team arrived at the ground about 90 minutes behind the schedule announced earlier and set themselves up for a long practice session. In a development that will gladden the hearts of their devoted fans and cantankerous punditry, a fielding session under lights was planned. India's practice began with a 20-minute lockdown in their changing room, and when they did emerge, an hour of football was followed by a group of the players gathering to perform the Usain Bolt pose for the cameras. The Jamaican sprinter calls it his, "To Di World" pose. Given that India's fielders are not really entitled to send out such messages to anyone, the move may be a psychological ploy to rev up the team's happiness index and also confuse the Irish: that among their slow-moving rivals on Sunday, champion sprinters lurk dangerously.
Fielding is the area where the Indians will have to up their game against a team which can be matched with both bat and ball. No matter how many they make, it is what the Indians will leak in the field that will always hold them back. Dhoni had thrown his hands up after the tie against England when he said, "I don't think we can improve the fielding very much because we have got quite a few slow fielders in the side ... you need to realise your strengths and definitely fielding is not a big part of it."
It is why India must decide whether to pack in a side that can score runs or bring in the extra wicket-taker. The somewhat brittle, though effective, Ashish Nehra is rumoured to be fit again but for him to be in the XI, India must leave out either Piyush Chawla or pack the side with five specialist bowlers and give Yusuf Pathan a chance to spend time with the parrots. If India do play five bowlers, it will be an act of much boldness and a slightly heavier responsibility on its big-ticket batsmen. They have had a week's break after each of their two matches so far, but now go into three matches in seven games, and no matter what the big tickets do, it is India's foot soldiers who will be sweating.
Runs are, once again, expected to burst forth from the Chinnaswamy Stadium wicket, where the last three international matches have generated an average of 328 runs per innings. In these three games, two teams have successfully chased scores of above 300 with India and England entangled in a tie. All that can be done to generate an extra twirl of turn on the wicket, which is what the Indians must now be slightly desperate for, is to keep the wicket dry by not watering it. Yet how much the wicket can be changed is all a question of degree. Who gets to decide what that degree is, will be known the moment the first innings of Sunday's match is complete.
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