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India's bowlers must wake up: Luck, hope don't last forever

Colombo: The Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan was being rather kind after the defeat against India when he said that the dropped catches did not ‘probably’ decide the game.

“Yes, our fielding could have been better and we should have held on to our catches but I don’t think the dropped catches decided the game. India have great depth in their batting line-up. Even if we had got those batsmen out, they had more quality down the order. It might have helped us chase a slightly smaller target but they would have got to at least 140 anyway.”

But he was a lot more brutal when he started talking about the Indian bowling.

“We knew that we only really needed to worry about (Ravichandran) Ashwin. He is a good bowler and in form and I told the batsmen to play against him a bit defensively.”

Even Afghanistan were looking down on India’s bowlers and all Virat Kohli could do was ‘hope’ that the bowling issues will be sorted out soon.

“You are always in doubt [that] if they start scoring in a few overs then things could slip away very quickly,” Kohli said. “I am hoping that against a bigger opposition we will turn out in a more positive way as far as our bowling is concerned. Be more aggressive, execute our plans properly and be more geared-up for stronger oppositions. I am hoping that we will put up a better bowling show.”

In a post-match chat, even Dhoni had weighed in on the performance of the bowlers. AFP

“In Twenty20, if your batting or bowling is not up to the mark then the poor run stretches to two-three games. You need one innings or one spell to change things. But I think we could have done better with the new ball. The wicket was good, there wasn’t much swing but I think we could have bowled in better areas and could have won the match with a bigger margin.”

But Kohli also reckoned that India’s bowling at the death needs a lot of improvement.

“I think our bowlers need to work a bit more on bowling in the death overs which has been a concern till now and I hope that we can pull our socks up and be ready for the stronger opposition and execute our plans much better than we did in this game,” Kohli said.

In a post-match chat, even Dhoni had weighed in on the performance of the bowlers.

“We can’t keep making 20-30 runs more than the par scores all the time. The bowlers will need to perform better.”

At the moment, this seems like a team saddled with problems; problems that aren’t going to go away in a hurry. The openers, Sehwag and Gambhir, are struggling, the most experienced fast bowler, Zaheer Khan, seems lost, Irfan Pathan can’t bowl where the captain wants him to (Did you see how Dhoni got angry with him?) and Balaji doesn’t have the pace to trouble the bigger teams.

But for the moment, Kohli believes that changing the team set-up will not be beneficial.

“I believe that in T20 if you play with a settled team composition then the team benefits. If you change the composition and it doesn’t work than it leaves a negative impact on the team especially in the batting department. In the bowling department you can experiment in T20. A batting order is set. If the top three score well then you can change the batting order lower down in the innings but changing the combination otherwise is not good. Besides, in T20 you don’t need an 80-90 run opening stand. You need a start of 40-45 runs. Only one match has been played so far and the kind of openers we have they are capable of giving us good start at a good pace when they click.”

India’s next match against England on 23 September can also be viewed as a warm-up game. Win or lose, they are through to the Super 8s – so for the likes of Zaheer, Sehwag, Gambhir and a few others – it’s their last chance to find some form.

In the Super 8s, India run into Australia, South Africa and Pakistan – teams that will exploit every little weakness and not drop catches. Hope can only take you so far, at some point you’ve got to start playing good cricket too.

by Ashish Magotra
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