If the two-match T20 series was any indication, the ODIs between India and Pakistan will, in all probability, be decided on the basis of how well India bat and also how good Pakistan are with the ball. It was clear in the last two T20s and even in the series against England that unless India put up a very big score on the board, they are likely to struggle. Even while chasing a target, their batters will have to be at their best for the present Indian bowling attack lacks the firepower to contain opponents.
The performance of Yuvraj Singh in the shorter format of the game has been a welcome change from his struggles in the Test version. He was exceptional in the game at Ahmedabad and very good with the ball as well against England. India’s proven match-winner in ODIs will be keen to put up another great showing against old rivals Pakistan. With the other experienced batsmen not in great form, it may become imperative for the left-hander to carry the burden of his Indian innings on his shoulder. He has done so credibly so far, but can be remain consistent?
While Yuvraj will remain pivotal to India’s cause, the other batsmen in the side must remember that their primary job in the team is to score runs. Most of them failed in the Tests against England and, in the four T20s played so far as well, they blew hot and cold. India managed to cling on to draws in both the series – against England and Pakistan – but their batsmen won’t get away lightly with failures against Pakistan in the 50-over version. They will need to come up with much taller scores else another defeat could be in store for the battered and bruised Indians.
Virender Sehwag returns to the fold against one of his favourite opponents, but looking at his performance in the last couple of seasons there isn’t a lot of scope to be optimistic. For India’s sake, one hopes he proves us wrong. Gautam Gambhir, whose name has shockingly cropped up in the race for India’s Test captaincy despite him not having made a big score in ages, has made it a habit of wasting good starts. He will need to end this abuse of the opening position if India are to get good scores against Pakistan. He needn’t be told how important the opening position is in cricket, and being an experienced hand he ought to deliver.
Among the names in the middle-order, Virat Kohli can be expected to come up with the goods, but the performance of the others will remain a concern. Suresh Raina has had a few low scores while Rohit Sharma continues to amaze for his penchant for throwing his wicket away. One also wonders whether Ravindra Jadeja will ever be able to transform his Ranji performance as an all-rounder at the top level. If India can raise their game with the bat, as they did against Pakistan in the Motera T20, the task for their inadequate bowling outfit will automatically become easier.
--By A Cricket Analyst