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May 9, 2010
India won't be sad to wave goodbye to Barbados after an uncomfortable time against pace bowling. MS Dhoni was running out of reasons to explain his team's problems as their World Twenty20 hopes were left hanging by a thread, but Chris Gayle suggested it was a mental issue for the batsmen.
India now need a victory against Sri Lanka to retain any hope and even that might not be enough. As ever the scrutiny on the Indian team is huge and the problems of the top order are being dissected, especially as only a few weeks ago many of these batsmen were plundering runs at the IPL.
Suresh Raina brought his form to this tournament and began with 101 off 60 balls against South Africa, but that was on a much slower surface in St Lucia. Unlike at the IPL there has been no let-up in the quality of bowling in Barbados, and India haven't been able to cope against Australia or West Indies.
"The IPL is a very different from international cricket. You have four foreigners and don't have always the best bowling attack, you have to keep your side balanced," Dhoni said. "Most of the sides have maybe one bowler who bowls really good, really quick, but apart from that you try to target the weak links.
"But in international cricket most of the sides have got at least three bowlers, you can maybe target one or at the most two [bowlers]. I think the IPL is very different, it would be unfair to compare the IPL to international cricket. We are on the losing side and that's the fact right now."
India's frustrations threatened to boil over when Rohit Sharma questioned the caught decision against him and signalled for the umpire to check the TV replay. Billy Bowden stuck with his on-field call - the third official can only be used to determine a clean catch - and Sharma could be in hot water. Raina had earlier given a petulant display when he had an lbw appeal turned down which replays showed was easily missing leg stump.
Gayle was always confident his team would be able to exploit the Bridgetown surface in their favour, even though it wasn't the quickest pitch of the tournament. "They [India] are always going to be vulnerable against the short ball, every team has done it against them and it's something they have to look at and try to prepare better," he said.
"They know that every team would bowl short at them so they just need to work on their mental game and back themselves. They are capable of handling it but maybe it is just a mental thing so if they can overcome that I'm sure they'll be even more dangerous."
Gautam Gambhir, who was recently the No. 1 batsman in the world, was bounced out for the second game in succession when he received a brute from Kemar Roach and all West Indies' seamers - even the medium-pacers Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo - banged the ball in the short. India knew they would face such a barrage, but, despite the forewarning, were still troubled.
"It's not something that has appeared all of a sudden. You are equipped to deal with it in this format as they bowl consistently short stuff at you but you have to keep scoring," Dhoni said. "It's not easy but as the players get more experience at international level they will groom themselves and be ready for the task. Quite a few players, I don't think, have played this kind of bowling on this kind of track, we were slightly on the back foot but it's only good for Indian cricket."
That last comment from Dhoni suggests that conditions back home in India are not preparing batsmen for the challenges of playing overseas. It was a hurdle that seemed to have been crossed during the last decade as performances away from home improved markedly, but a batting line-up without the experienced figures of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid is struggling to adapt.
"We have prepared well," Dhoni insisted. "We knew they would use short-pitched deliveries, we practiced against short-pitched deliveries in the net sessions but until you don't face it in a game you are not match-aware of what is needed in that situation. You can do hundreds of things but when it comes to adaptation you have to be out in the middle and work it out, get a single, keep alternating the strike. If you keep backing off and keep playing the pull shot and people get out, it gets very difficult."
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