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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Play Shahid Afridi like Anil Kumble

The Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi is a different bowler in this World Cup, and it shows. He’s the leading wicket-taker by far. Although the Indians have had no problems with Afridi’s bowling in the past, it would be a mistake to underestimate him. He dismissed four Sri Lankans in the league game Pakistan won, including fine players of spin like Dilshan.
What Afridi has developed since the last time we played him is a drift into the pads, which has got him a bunch of LBW and bowled wickets. His leg spin will be easy enough to read; it’s the drifter into the pads that we need to watch out for.
The more experienced players only have to remember how they played Kumble in the nets. Aravinda de Silva negated the threat from Kumble by playing him straight, treating him like an inswing bowler, and not a spinner. It meant avoiding cuts or pulls unless it was a long hop. India can do the same to Afridi.
Keep the pitch dry and bare
There have been suggestions that the Mohali curator Daljit Singh should be asked to prepare a bouncy, seaming track to expose the inexperience of the Pakistani top order. Fortunately, that will be hard to do in the heat of late March, because Pakistanwould certainly be better off than India on a bouncy track - Umar Gul is in great form, Wahab Riaz has pace and they can also call upon Shoaib Akhtar for one last hurrah. India has only Zaheer, and he relies more on swing than bounce and pace. Much better to stick to our spin-based gameplan. And let’s not forget, the Lankan spinners got as many wickets as their pacers against the Pakistanis, so it’s not as if they have mastery over playing spin. Pity we don’t have a good leg-spinner though, for the bouncy Mohali.
Check for the dew
Mohali generally gets a fair amount of dew in day-night games, but it’s not clear how much there will be at this time of the year. The World Cup has had only day games at Mohali so far, and the teams batting first have piled on the runs. But with dew, batting under lights may be an advantage. That’s something Dhoni needs to check before the game.
Be flexible with powerplays
India have failed to derive any advantage from the batting powerplays so far. They’ve either collapsed or been forced to take it in the 45th over when you can’t put it off any more. They should think of taking it earlier when they have two set batsmen at the crease. The only caveat is not to go berserk when they do take it - even six or seven an over, without losing wickets, would be fine.
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