27 February 2015
India v United Arab Emirates Preview, Match 21, Perth
No Shami means a chance for Bhuvneshwar or Binny, while UAE will have to raise game its game against the defending champion
India will have to make do without the services of Mohammed Shami, its pace spearhead who has been laid low by a left knee problem.
India undoubtedly has the edge over UAE in Saturday’s (February 28) Group B picture at the WACA ground.
But then again, what is life without hope? What is cricket without the possibility of an upset? How else does this game become a game of glorious uncertainties?
For all its competitiveness, UAE has lost two of two – to Zimbabwe in its first World Cup game for 19 years, and more narrowly to Ireland two nights back, in the last over by two wickets. With a little bit of luck, composure and experience, it could have pulled at least one those two fats out of the fire. But it didn’t. As spirited and as enthusiastic as it was, UAE's skills were found just a little bit wanting at the crunch, and this against sides that it is closer to in the pecking order than its opponents on Saturday.
India find itself at the other end of the spectrum, and not by accident. Its win over Pakistan, by 76 runs, was shaded by its victory over South Africa in Melbourne last Sunday, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men ran out victors by a massive 130 runs. Both those margins don’t flatter India; they are amply illustrative of the refreshingly unshackled brand of cricket the team has put on display the moment it came down to mounting a defence of its World Cup crown.
Across the board, India’s players and influential members of the support staff have stressed the importance of not letting the intensity slip. Cricket has a funny way of coming back to hurt you if you don’t give the opponent, or the game, the respect it deserves. There are enough wise heads to impress upon rank and file the significance of maintaining the high standards established over the past fortnight; this isn’t so much about who the opponent is as about what India want to make of itself. UAE is some way short of offering the same challenge as Pakistan or South Africa; in many ways, that alone makes this India’s biggest test yet.
India will have to make do without the services of Mohammed Shami, its pace spearhead who has been laid low by a left knee problem. Shami has taken 6 for 65 in India’s two victories from 17 overs, and bowled as well as those numbers indicate. An ultrasound-guided injection on Thursday evening should go a long way towards ensuring that he is up and running for the game against West Indies at the same venue on March 6; for now, his enforced absence has given the think-tank the opportunity to cram game time into one of Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Stuart Binny, either or both of whom might be called on to do duty at some stage in the competition.
Missing from the think-tank discussions will be Duncan Fletcher, the head coach who is away in Cape Town following the demise of his father in law. With two key men – one on-field, the other in the back room – unavailable, any potential for lingering complacency ought to have disappeared completely.
UAE slipped into the tournament on the back of an impressive run in the qualifying competition, and has thrown up several colourful stars in the last couple of games. No one has shined brighter than Shaiman Anwar, the experienced middle-order batsman who, on Wednesday, became his country’s first World Cup centurion. His dismantling of a quality Ireland attack – his hundred came off only 79 deliveries – was brilliant in its conception and outstanding in its execution. He is, however, a marked man now, much like Kevin O’Brien was both before but certainly after his match-winning hundred against England in the last World Cup, and it will be interesting to see how he shapes up given that the expectations of him have mounted manifold.
For UAE to rub shoulders with India on an equal footing on a surface that India’s pacers should relish more than the opposition, it will need for the top order to support Shaiman more effectively. Pretty 30s will not do, nor will wickets falling in a heap and forcing Shaiman to shore up the lower order while at the same time doing the bulk of the scoring, and reasonably quickly at that. Amjad Ali, the opener, and Khurram Khan, the former skipper and UAE’s only other ODI centurion, must bat longer, while the India-born duo of Krishna Chandran and Swapnil Patil both have a great opportunity to make a name for themselves against players that are at once their countrymen and their heroes.
Where UAE might find the going particularly tough is in its bowling. Manjula Guruge, the left-arm seamer, has been accurate and Mohammad Tauqir, the captain, reasonably tidy with his offspin. But the rest of the group have tended to go for a few. UAE must find ways of taking wickets – the best way to staunch the flow of runs -- if it is to seriously trouble a line-up coming off scores of 300 and 307 in its last two hits.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Stuart Binny, Axar Patel, Ambati Rayudu.
UAE: Amjad Ali, Andri Berenger, Krishna Chandran, Khurram Khan, Swapnil Patil (wk), Shaiman Anwar, Rohan Mustafa, Amjad Javed, Mohammad Naveed, Mohammad Tauqir (capt), Manjula Guruge, Fahad Alhashmi, Kamran Shazad, Nasir Aziz, Saqlain Haider.
Pakistan v Zimbabwe Preview, Match 23, Brisbane
South Africa Innings: In Numbers