India brace for short-ball barrage
India are likely to face another stern examination of their technique against bouncers when they take on West Indies in a crucial Super Eight match at the Kensington Oval on Sunday. The hosts are set to unleash Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach on a top order that struggled against the short ball from Australia in a bid to keep their tournament alive.
Both sides are desperate for victory having lost their first Super Eight matches by huge margins and another defeat would leave them on the brink of exiting the tournament. It now seems likely that either the financial powerhouse of world cricket or the host nation will not make it to the semi-finals.
West Indies were awful against Sri Lanka as they missed six chances in the field, but India's vulnerability against the short ball offers them a window of opportunity. At last year's World Twenty20 they bounced India out at Lord's on their way to the semi-finals and Chris Gayle didn't hide the fact that it will be a tactic discussed in the build-up to this match.
"We can use the short ball but at the same we have to be careful because it's a small ground and they have quality batters who can make adjustments," he said. "But it's certainly something we will put into our plans."
Taylor and Roach were impressive with the new ball against Sri Lanka but weren't backed up by the fielding. It was the first time in the tournament that West Indies' two quickest bowlers had been paired together after Taylor struggled with injury during the group stage. Roach, meanwhile, was left out after the opening game against Ireland but his return of 2 for 27 against Sri Lanka was commendable as West Indies conceded nearly ten an over.
MS Dhoni is well aware that his team will be targeted but is confident they can respond despite being rattled by Australia's trio of Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson. "It's the same stuff that Indians have been facing for the last 10, 15, 20 years and some of the best batsmen in the world have come from India so there's no reason why they can't do it," he said.
With the early starts for the first match each day it is leaving the captains with a conundrum over what to do at the toss. Michael Clarke said he was surprised India bowled with just two frontline seamers in the attack and Gayle hinted that he may prefer to defend a total even if that means holding back his quicks.
"Whichever team bats second will be under pressure, especially when they are chasing a total over 170," he said. "If you lose a few early wickets you are on the back foot and I'm sure it's something teams will be looking at. But with the first game starting at 9.30 there can sometimes be a bit in the wicket."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo