If you believe the Sports pages of most dailies, certain key match-ups determine the fate of a cricket match. Hence, we are likely to see ‘Sehwag v/s Malinga’, ‘Murali v/s Sachin’, ‘Agarkar v/s Jayasurya’ and so on and so forth as being the deciders for India. Good reading aside, how can these ‘head-to-head’s be the deciding factors when their occurrence in themselves is a function of probability?
If bowling first, anything in excess of 230 at the Queen’s Park Oval is trouble. This is because of 3 reasons:
- Chasing under pressure is the worst situation to be in cricket
- India are not a good chasing side (inspite of the long list of successful run-chases, those were in bilateral series)
- Sri Lanka’s strength is its middle-overs slow bowlers adept at choking oppositions
That SL will score big if their openers; Tharanga and Sanath bat undefeated for 20 overs is not open to debate. However, India’s vulnerabilities have usually been against the ‘2nd wave’ – about the time that the opening bowlers complete their spells and the 3rd and 4th bowlers come on. These don’t even have to be part-timers, even with genuine bowlers, we tend to let the intensity subside and the opposition to play their way. This period, unhappily for India, coincides with the time that their best batsman, Sangakarra, is likely to be at the crease. In conjunction with Silva and Arnold, he could take the game away.
- Be flexible and sharp while ringing in bowling changes. Change the opening bowlers after 3-4 overs each (unless wickets are tumbling) and keep to short spells to not let the batsmen settle
- Consider delaying power plays if under attack and take them immediately after wickets fall
- Bounce ’em! (every couple of overs) Barring Sangakarra, they do not like it short. This warrants getting Sreesanth in at the expense of a spinner.
If chasing, it will need two of the top three to play a big one. If batting first however, the typical Indian innings shows a spirited charge in the first 15 followed by a lethargic stroll from 16 – 40. The Lankan bowlers get better with dot balls and soon the trickle of runs goes dry. Our weakness lays in giving too much respect to the likes of Vaas and the disinterest in quick running when a combination of Sehwag, Ganguly, Yuvraj are at the crease.
- Do not go in with pre-conceived defensive intent against any bowler, particularly Vaas and Murali. Play the bowling rather than the bowler and show intent with aggressive running
- Reassess target totals every 5 overs and change gear accordingly. Something we fail miserably at.
- Run scoring against the Lankans gets more difficult as the innings progresses, so go in thinking about scoring 60% of the runs in the first 25 overs
BOTTOMLINE : Arm-chair analysis rules!