World Cup: India aim for QF berth
New Delhi: Title aspirants India are unlikely to face much resistance as they go into their World Cup Group B encounter against minnows The Netherlands but there are worries over the form and potency of their bowling attack.
The Indians are on top in the group with five points and a win will assure them of a berth in the quarterfinals of the mega event being held in the sub-continent after a gap of 15 years.
A tied game against England and a hard-fought five-wicket victory over giant-killers Ireland has put India`s rather lackluster bowling attack under the scanner and the Indian think-tank has to plug the loopholes before it is too late.
Although the hosts should not find it difficult to get past Netherlands on a slow and low Ferozeshah Kotla track, the team will have to work on the bowling composition and the fielding to be able to make an impact against the stronger sides.
Clearly, the four-bowler strategy has its limitations on the sub-continental track and relying on part-timers to fill in ten overs may turn out to be costly at some stage, particularly if one of the specialist bowlers has an off day.
At the same time, the Indians have always preferred to go in with seven batsmen and may not be inclined to tinker with the line-up just to accommodate an extra bowler.
The form of leg spinner Piyush Chawla, a surprise inclusion in India`s World Cup squad, has been highly disappointing and the team management may toy with the idea of including off-spinner R Ashwin in his place.
Ashwin`s inclusion will no doubt strengthen the batting line-up as he is handy down the order but the bowling will lack the variety with two off spinners in the ranks.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has acknowledged the fact that the bowling and fielding have not been top grade so far and wants his teammates to raise their game.
"We are showing signs of improvement in bowling. Our fielding will be the same, our exceptional fielders can get better but our slow fielders will remain the same. It`s important to peak at right time as it is long tournament," Dhoni said
Dhoni sought to see the positives of their hard-fought win over Ireland in their last league match on Sunday and said his batsmen were made to play under pressure.
"It was needed (tough test). Scoreboard read it was 208 but it was close to 240. Their bowlers were well supported by their fielders. Everyone got a chance to bat, everyone was under pressure, and when you are chasing against Ireland it adds to pressure. It was very good exposure for the batsmen," Dhoni said.
Paceman Ashish Nehra, who has still not played a single match because of a back injury, is now fully fit but it remains to be seen whether he will get his chance on the morrow.
In fact, the team management may opt to go in with two specialist spinners to exploit the slow track at the Kotla.
While bowling has had its share of problems, the star-studded Indian batting has been firing and most of the batsmen have got decent scores under their belt.
The Indians will be looking to Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag to provide an explosive start and set the platform for the others such as Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan to go for the onslaught.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, have really been struggling to make a mark in the high-profile tournament and are not really expected to test the Indians in the floodlit contest.
They lost to England by six wickets in their opening match in Nagpur and were then beaten by West Indies by a huge 215 runs in the second group match at the Kotla. There was no change in their fortune as South Africa trounced them by 231 runs in the last match at Mohali.
With the thrashings that they have received, there confidence level will expectedly be quite low to take on the home team. A capacity and vociferous crowd at the Kotla will only add to the pressure.
Ryan ten Doeschate, who struck a 110-ball 119 against England, is their key player and the Indians will be looking to get his wicket quickly.
But Dutch captain Peter Borren believes that his team has the potential to test the Indians.
"It`s going to be a real challenge for us. We have the potential. We are really looking forward to playing against India," Borren said.
"The batsmen have failed to give the team the chance to be in the race. You have to give yourself a bit of a chance, but before the batsmen could up the tempo, we kept losing wickets at regular intervals. You can`t bat like that. It`s pretty disappointing. We have let ourselves down," he said.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c/wk), Virender Sehwag (vc), Sachin Tendulkar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, S Sreesanth, Yuvraj Singh.
The Netherlands: Peter Borren (c), Adeel Raja, Wesley Barresi (wk), Mudassar Bukhari, Atse Buurman (wk), Tom Cooper, Tom de Grooth, Alexei Kervezee, Bradley Kruger, Bernard Loots, Pieter Seelaar, Eric Szwarczynski, Ryan ten Doeschate, Berend Westdijk, Bas Zuiderent.
Umpires: Steve Davis (Aus) and Bruce Oxenford (Aus).
TV Umpire: Billy Doctrove (West Indies).
Match Referee: RS Madugalle (Sri Lanka).