ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Canada v Kenya, Group A, World Cup 2011, Delhi
'Batsmen need to step up' - Bagai
Nagraj Gollapudi in Delhi
March 6, 2011
Ashish Bagai is a brave man. Last week, ahead of the game against Zimbabwe, the Canada captain said it was an important match, one which his team were confident of winning. It was thrashed by 175 runs. Today, he replaced Zimbabwe with Kenya, and both the struggling teams backed themselves to open their account in the tournament. This only adds some weight to the contest, the battle of the minnows.
Earlier in the day, Jimmy Kamande, Bagai's counterpart, said that his team would play the Kenyan brand of cricket - bold and expressive. Bagai was equal to the challenge: "Good competitive cricket, a good brand of cricket will give us success," he said.
Canada's biggest stumbling block has been the failure of the batsmen. Even John Davison, their most senior batsman , whom the rest of the team looks for direction, has been indecisive. He missed out on playing Pakistan in a thrilling contest where Canada held the upper-hand at the innings break, chasing 185. An impressive amount of grit kept them alive till the half-way stage. But the batsmen failed to accelerate to keep up with the asking rate, eventually panicked and lost the match. Davision was left to wonder if his participation would have made a difference, but with a tally of two runs in two matches he'd know his batting needs a lot of work.
But he is not alone; the rest of the batsmen including Bagai have to own up to their responsibility. In all the three matches, the top order has failed to even raise 50 runs; 47 remains the highest score so far by a batsman; Canada has not been able to reach 150. "If we get our batting right we should be competitive. It has been a worry right from the warm-ups. Bowling has hitting the straps in the last few games but it is the batsmen still have to step up," Bagai said.
Nearly 50% of the wickets (13 out of 31) have been taken by spinners at the Ferozshah Kotla in the two matches played so far. That prompted Bagai to give an indication of Canada's gameplan on Monday. "Looking at the last two games it is the spinners who have dominated on this wicket. Balaji Rao is going to be the key for us. We probably might play another spinner with Parth Desai slotted to open."
Rao, who played for Railways and Tamil Nadu on the Indian domestic circuit, before emigrating to Canada for studies in 2003, agreed with his captain on spin being a catalyst on the Kotla track. But he added a wicket-to-wicket line would be mandatory for a spinner. "The Delhi wicket initially keeps low and holds the line. It just starts turning midway into the second innings," Rao, who has six wicket so far, said.
Rao is now part of the team think-tank along with Bagai and Dyson and integral to the team's success. In the previous match against Pakistan, he raised eyebrows and stirred emotions among the Indian fans by engaging in a verbal duel with the Pakistan pair of Umar Gul and Ahmed Shehzad. Rao had already posed difficult questions to the Pakistan batsmen earlier the afternoon by removing Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal when the pair was leading the recovery in the middle overs.
When Gul and Shehzad "abused" him, Rao, who now works in the insurance industry, took the risk of rising to their bait. "I just basically believe that if somebody gives you something you have to give it back to him. I had a few swipes against Umar Gul and he had a few things to say, so I said ja, jakar bowling kar (Just go and bowl). But from point, Ahmed Shehzad abused me which was uncalled for. Then I got hit on the shoulder, and again Gul had something to say and I shooed him away," Rao recollected.
The incident has not distracted him much, as Rao had another good memory from the Pakistan match, one that he will take into Kenya game. Asked of his favourite dismissal, Rao said: "Akmal was the wicket I enjoyed because I was able to turn the ball square earlier. The one that got him was a flipper that went through. With the second new ball, it helped as the odd ball turns and the batsman is left guessing. So I had the midwicket back and I was pushing him back so that he could take a single. That ball held the line and hit him in line of the stump."