ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
India v Ireland, Group B, World Cup 2011, Bangalore
India to pick bowling attack based on opposition
Liam Brickhill in Bangalore
March 5, 2011
The last three days have given MS Dhoni plenty to think about. Kevin O'Brien's inspirational innings against England means a wary India will be taking no chances against the plucky Ireland side in Bangalore, while the reaction of irate Bangladesh fans after their team's humiliating loss to West Indies will surely have stirred memories for India's captain.
West Indies' team bus was struck by stones as they travelled back from their match against Bangladesh in Mirpur, while the Daily Star also reported that a few fans on motorbikes threw stones at Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan's Magura home, leaving a window-pane broken. Dhoni's own home in Ranchi had been targeted in a similar manner, amid a wave of effigy-burning, by angry Indian fans after India's loss to Bangladesh in the 2007 World Cup.
"I think yesterday they missed the Bangladesh bus, because that's what they were waiting for," he joked, before taking on a far more serious tone. "It's unfortunate, but in the subcontinent that's how the fans react. They should remember it's not the players living in that [Shakib's] home right now, it's the family members and they don't have anything to do with cricket. You have to control your emotions.
"[As fans] you have to back the players. You need backing when you're not doing well because when you're winning games and everybody's with you, the emotions, the expectation level, the appreciation, everything is there. But the real fans of cricket will be with you when you're not doing well, when you are a bit low, when the team is not doing well, those are the real fans of cricket. Others, they just follow the wins of the team; whenever they are winning they are big fans of cricket."
A successful Indian team has had no such worries in this tournament so far, giving their legions of supporters plenty to celebrate even though their match against England ended in a tie. But if there had been any chance, at the beginning of the World Cup, that their encounter with Ireland might have been seen as an opportunity to experiment and rest key players, such thoughts were vanquished by the events of Wednesday night.
"I've never said there's any weaker side in the World Cup, because if you have very fond memories of getting beaten by Bangladesh in 2007 then you won't commit that mistake," Dhoni said on the eve of the Ireland clash.
"For every team it depends on that particular day. There are individuals in every side who can play big innings, score at an amazing strike rate of 150 or 200, and that can really change the course of the game. So the preparation level remains the same and the intensity should be the same as when we play any other side."
Dhoni admitted to being impressed by Kevin O'Brien's "unbelievable" knock, and glad that he had been a spectator to it rather than being on the receiving end. "We really enjoyed O'Brien's innings. It was not against us, so as a spectator you can enjoy each and every hit. We enjoyed every bit of his batting and the Ireland innings.
"Right from the very start he went after the bowlers but it was really impressive to see him change gears at the end because that's what was needed at that point. As far as strategies [against him] are concerned, every day is different so accordingly you have to plan for how a batsman is playing. But he got run out, so we'll try to get him run out in this game also."
A full-strength XI is a virtual certainty against a buoyant Ireland side who will be backing themselves to secure another major scalp, and Dhoni suggested that India would stick to the batting-heaving line-up as that is where their main strength lies.
"You should always back your strength, that's the most important part. Tomorrow we don't want to feel 'Okay now we would have been better off with seven batsmen', and maybe you score 30-odd runs less and you find yourself in a place where there's not enough runs on the board. We'll be more inclined to play with seven batters, of course Yusuf [Pathan] and Yuvraj [Singh] can also bowl and be the fifth bowler for the side."
With four slots remaining for the bowlers, the question for India will be which combination of spin and seam to play: three seamers and one specialist spinner, or two of each? If two spinners are included, will it be R Ashwin or Piyush Chawla who partners Harbhajan Singh?
Dhoni did not let on what India's plans were, but did defend his bowlers for leaking 338 runs in the game against England, saying the Bangalore wicket was flat. "We played against England with a two-two combination. Some people may say it didn't really affect the opposition but what we are saying is the wicket is behaving in a better way under the lights. What we have seen is that it's not a seamer-friendly wicket and as the game progresses by evening it comes on very nicely to the bat - there's no extra pace for the fast bowlers."
Dhoni suggested India's bowling combination might change from game to game depending on the opposition. "If there's plenty of left-handers in the opposition side then you may be inclined to play one more offspinner. Both Yusuf and Harbhajan are offspinners and both of them have bowled well. If the opposition are not very good at picking the wrong one from the legspinner then you are inclined to play Piyush Chawla.
"Piyush just gives you that variation of the bowler who can take it away and also has the wrong one. And you already have Harbhajan and Yusuf to bowl offspin. Ashwin has done exceptionally well for us whenever he has played and he has bowled in the first 10 overs also, but you just pick the one that may be most suitable for that particular game."