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September 12, 2007
Barely four days back, the Indian team was in another continent, playing another series, in another format of the game. Their hectic schedule and lack of preparation, coupled with their lack of experience in the Twenty20 format, means not many are giving them much chance of making it into the last four. That could work to their advantage, though, and a win in the opener against Scotland on Thursday will ensure they make it to the Super Eights. It was a hurdle they couldn't surmount in the Caribbean earlier this year, but it's highly unlikely that Scotland can do a Bangladesh on India.
Bat play: Mahendra Singh Dhoni didn't reveal much about team composition in the pre-match talk, which means guessing the XI is a bit of a hazard. The batting line-up will surely consist of Virender Sehwag, who'll have plenty to prove after his recent absence, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dinesh Karthik might get a look-in ahead of Gautam Gambhir, while Irfan Pathan and Joginder Sharma could bolster the lower order.
Scotland's top order, bar Fraser Watts, the opener, misfired badly, but they have another opportunity to make amends.
Wrecking ball: India do have plenty of bowling options, but in the absence of Zaheer Khan, the challenge is for one of them to rise and take up the mantle of being the leader of the pack. Ajit Agarkar has been too inconsistent to inspire any confidence, while Sreesanth has been blow-hot, blow-cold throughout his short career. That leaves the much-improved RP Singh as the potential leader, while Irfan Pathan will want to make a strong statement on his return as well. It remains to be seen how much of an influence the spinners will have.
Scotland's new-ball bowlers were very impressive against Pakistan, and aided by their top-class fielders in conditions that could help the bowlers, they could ask a few searching questions of the Indian batsmen.
Keep your eyes on: Virender Sehwag. The exclusion from the team would have hit him hard, and he'll want to take every opportunity to prove he is still one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket.
Shop talk: To bat first or to chase is the perennial question for the captain winning the toss, but Dhoni had little doubt about what he would do if the coin fell his way. "A lot depends on the conditions but we would probably love to bat first. It's always better to bat first, and since batting is also our strength, we would like to give the opponents a big total. Also there is a lot more pressure when chasing big totals."
His other mantra is to keep it conventional and simple. "If you've seen last evening's game between South Africa and the West Indies, they played proper cricketing shots. I think it's important to play it as a normal cricket match. The stress would be on playing conventional cricket and not doing anything extraordinary."
Pitching it right: The weather should be fine, but strong winds could help the bowlers move it around a bit, though control could be an issue here. The track has shown a tendency to hold up occasionally, making strokeplay a trifle difficult.
India (from): Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Joginder Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh, Sreesanth.
Scotland (from): Ryan Watson (capt), Fraser Watts, Dougie Brown, John Blain, Gavin Hamilton, Navdeep Poonia, Gregor Maiden, Neil McCallum, Qasim Sheikh, Colin Smith (wk), Craig Wright, Dewald Nel, Gordon Drummond, Ross Lyons, Majid Haq.
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