Indians on guard against tricky Irish

Last Updated: Mar 06, 2011, 08:56 AM IST

Bangalore: Title contenders India will have to be on their guard against giant-killers Ireland, on a high after shocking England, when the two sides face off in an interesting group B match of the cricket World Cup on Sunday.

The match has grown in profile and has gained proportion after Ireland sprang the tournament`s biggest surprise by shocking their more fancied neighbors and three-time Cup finalists England.

Going by pedigree, however, there is definitely no comparison between the two teams and, irrespective of all the hype over Ireland`s stunning win that left Andrew Strauss and his men and India with bowling concerns, the hosts will start the match as firm favourites.

Until Wednesday, the day the Irish made the world sit up and take notice of their cricketing credentials, none would have given the upcoming match any importance except for the fact that India is involved.

The Indian team management, though, has been forced to think and pay attention to the associate nation following its improbable victory at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, also the venue for Sunday’s match.

The focus is also on the wicket, which produced 300-plus totals in all the matches it has hosted so far in the quadrennial extravaganza.

That England tied the match against India last Sunday chasing an imposing target just a few days before Kevin O`Brien`s stunning innings lifted Ireland to a historic win chasing almost 330 runs, are indications enough that the strip here is full of runs.

The word is that Sunday`s match will be played on the surface which hosted India`s warm-up game against Australia and the England game.

But whether it is played on the centre strip, which hosted India`s game, or the one that O`Brien made his own, is not, by any means, expected to change the tide in bowlers` favour.

Over the last fortnight, massive totals, huge sixes and countless boundaries have been the norm at this venue, and things are expected to remain the same.

Both the pitches look like feather-beds, though sources within the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) indicated that there might be some turn on offer Sunday.

It was learnt that fearing a backlash, curator Narayan Raju consistently rolled and watered down the track to nullify the turn that had the Australians in a tizzy during their warm-up game against the hosts.

With the pitch again expected to favour the batsmen, India could go in with the XI that played against England. The good news from the hosts` camp is that Ashish Nehra has attained match fitness but the Delhi pacer is not expected to be picked unless, of course, the team management decides to field three seamers.

Bowling has been India`s biggest worry in the tournament. The 2-2 attack has so far proved to be a failure and is not the way forward. That brings into equation the fifth bowler`s slot and the team management is now weighing the options, which it doesn`t have in abundance.

There have been calls from certain quarters to field five bowlers while some suggested that the quota of 10 overs be shared by Yusuf Pathan and Yuvraj Singh.

With Piyush Chawla going for plenty, Ravichandran Ashwin`s chances have brightened. The fact that Ireland has a few left-handers in their ranks strengthens his case, and if picked, the Tamil Nadu bowler`s off-spin could trouble the visiting team`s batsmen.

With the Irish not the best players of spin, three spinners on a turner would be the ideal scenario for India, but the batsmen-friendly track has already ruled that out.

As far as Ireland is concerned, the question is will they be able to repeat what they did to England. They are not low on self belief and Wednesday`s win has given them plenty of confidence.

The Irish now believe that they are here to not just complete the numbers, but to compete on an even keel. O` Brien`s innings has completely changed the complexion of the match.

"The attitude is to win and we will go with that attitude against India too," said all-rounder Joh Mooney.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Shanthakumaran
Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.

Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, Niall O`Brien, Kevin O`Brien, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, John Mooney, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Gary Wilson, Andrew White, Ed Joyce.

Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZL) and Rod Tucker (AUS), TV umpire: Marais Erasmus (RSA), Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (SRI) ,

Match starts: 1430hrs (IST)

PTI