The injury to Ashish Nehra has put the Indian team management in a dilemma over who should be his replacement for the World Cup final against Sri Lanka. The likely choices are Sreesanth and R Ashwin, but MS Dhoni said that he was yet to make up his mind on whether to go for a third seamer, or play two seamers and an extra spinner.
"That is a tricky one," Dhoni said 24 hours before the final. "If you see the Mumbai track there is a bit of pace and bounce for the seamers initially. Also if there is reverse swing going on, the third seamer can have an impact on the game. At the same time if the three seamers are bowling well I can easily manoeuvre the bowling."
According to Dhoni, playing only two seamers along with four spinners including part-timers did not afford him the same flexibility. Yet, on the two occasions India adopted that strategy, they won: in the final group match against West Indies, and in the quarter-final victory over Australia.
"If one of the fast bowlers has an off-day it gets difficult," Dhoni said. "Still we should not forget that, in whatever opportunities Ashwin has got so far he has done really well. We have confidence in him. But we have not thought out our bowling combination yet."
Dhoni disagreed that playing Sreesanth - who leaked 53 runs in five overs in his only game - would be a gamble. "He is one player who gets excited when it comes to big games," Dhoni said. "If he is playing he will be in a good frame of mind. Sree is one character who can swing the ball and get you early wickets. It would be an exciting choice we would need to make."
But he did admit that being a volatile character, Sreesanth could easily disappoint. "The only person who can control Sreesanth is Sreesanth," he said. "It is beyond my control and I don't think too much about."
Dhoni, however, clarified that Sreesanth's unpredictability was not the reason behind him not featuring in India's campaign after the opening game against Bangladesh. Dhoni said that India had played the line-ups most suited to the conditions in the knockout matches, and Sreesanth did not fit in with the requirements. "It has been unfortunate that we could not give him any further chances after the first match where he did not bowl that badly," Dhoni said. "But after that we gave chances to quite a few other individuals, which was needed at that point. After the last match in the group stages we have fielded the best XI, which suited the conditions."
Going by the two league games played here, the Wankhede pitch has proved beneficial to teams batting first. In the first of those games, New Zealand made 358 against Canada after being put in to bat. Four days later Kumar Sangakkara's century helped Sri Lanka set a challenging target of 265 against New Zealand, who were flattened by the trickery of Muttiah Muralitharan. Dhoni was certain Muralitharan would play tomorrow despite fitness worries, and he believed the teams would prefer to bat first. "Being the final, more often than not most of the teams would love to bat first, put runs on the board and put pressure on the opposition," he said. "You might see the wicket getting slower as the game progresses. There will not be too much of a difference apart from handling the pressure which might be more in the second innings compared to the first."