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Sight Screen

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Much ado about nothing at all

Worma got it right in one, in this post; there are so many folks doing so many 'previews' and opinions and 'analysis', all of them trying desperately to not sound alike while saying the same thing -- to wit, it is between the Pakistan bowling and the Indian batting, and Shoaib Akthar holds the key. There's so much of it out there, you want to fast forward the clock and get the damn game started, so at the least there is something new to read about.
Incidentally, Dileep Premachandran's preview piece is just up on Cricinfo.
Just for the heck of it, spin the thing on its head. Logically, the length and composition of India's batting lineup (forget for the moment questions of form; a Sehwag who started last year in a blaze of runs slumped by year end; these ups and downs can't be budgeted for anyways) indicates that runs will come. In their 500s and 600s if everyone clicks, but at the least into the 350s if even half the lineup plays to par. And if the pitches are result-oriented, then 350 is not a score you sneeze at anyways.
The real key then lies in the opposite end of the equation -- can the Pakistan batsmen put runs on the board or chase down the opposition or, looked at another way, can any four bowlers on the Indian side be backed to bowl the opposition out twice? IMHO, it is not in Shoaib versus India's batting, but in Pathan, Harbhajan, Kumble and any one of Zaheer or Agarkar versus Pakistan's batting, that the result of this series will lie.
Scary thought that, actually. Pathan is easily the most improved player in the Indian side, but the identity of his bowling partner is a bit iffy. Agarkar and Zaheer have both been indifferent of late; the latter rehabilitated himself at the domestic level, but the catch there is Inzy, Yousuf, Younis and the others didn't play in the opposition.
Harbhajan has been bowling at close to his best lately -- but to an extent, he was allowed to dominate by a below par Sri Lankan batting lineup. Plus, it is moot how much turn there will be on offer on Pakistan pitches; any curator with an iota of sense will know better than to prepare crumblers and play into Indian hands.
And that factor also puts a question mark against Kumble's name -- you need to play him for his experience and his steadiness, but you realize too that he could be reduced to stock bowler if the pitch turns out to be hard and true, and any wickets he gets will be through attrition.
To my mind the question is not whether the Indian batsmen can make runs; it is more whether the Indian bowlers can keep Pakistan from making them. Forget Shoaib -- the key to the series lies in India numbers 8, 9, 10 and 11.

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