Finally the D-Day has arrived for India at the Cricket World Cup 2007. India is not yet in the finals but the match against Sri Lanka is perhaps more crucial than the finals. If India loses today, then it would be a disappointing exit for the team on which the media had built up a lot of expectation. Apart from the .fans who will no doubt feel cheated, it would be the industry which would suffer a lot with advertisements needing to be withdrawn, product endorsements failing and contracts to be reworked.

In this context, let us see the form shown by the Indian and Sri Lankan teams in the two matches that they have played. Incidentally, both have played matches against the same opposition and while Sri Lanka has won both their matches convincingly, India lost its match to Bangladesh. The form of individual players can be assessed from the following table of NCR (Naavi Cricket Rating) for both teams at the end of Round II.

India (IN)  

 

Name

M1 M2 Total
1 Virender Sehwag 28 56 84
2 Yuvraj Singh 34 42 76
3 Munaf Patel 44 26 68
4 Zaheer Khan 21 38 59
5 MS Dhoni 27 20 47
6 Sourav Ganguly 37 8 45
7 Anil Kumble 43 43
8 Ajit Agarkar -6 48 42
9 Sachin Tendulkar (VC) 1 40 41
10 Robin Uthappa 5 10 15
11 Rahul Dravid (C) 8 4 12
12 Dinesh Karthik 10 10
13 Harbhajan Singh 2 2
14 S Sreesanth
415 Irfan Pathan

 

Sri Lanka (SL)  

  Name M1 M2 Total
1 Sanath Jayasuriya 8 115 123
2 Kumar Sangakkara 57 55 112
3 Farveez Maharoof 55 44 99
4 Lasith Malinga 39 52 91
5 Mahela Jayawardene (C) 40 13 53
6 Chamara Silva 25 36 61
7 Muttiah Muralidaran 24 33 57
8 Chaminda Vaas 19 33 52
9 Upul Tharanga 4 18 22
10 Russel Arnold 1 19 20
11 Nuwan Kulasekara 10* 10
12 Tillakaratne Dilshan 2 0 2
13 Marvan Atapattu
14 Dilhara Fernando
15 Malinga Bandara

 

The above table indicates that players of the Sri Lankan side have NCR points above 50 and there are two centurions. On the other hand none of the Indians have reached 100 points and only four of them have NCR scores above 50. However 9 Indians have scores above 40 indicating that they are in reasonable touch and could be expected to fire any time.The only failures on the Indian sides are Uthappa, Harbhajan and Dravid. Of these Dravid has not got enough opportunities and hence his low score does not represent failure.

What India can consider is whether they can replace Uthappa with Irfan Pathan for the current match so that the batting strength of Sri Lanka can be countered. Being a left hander, he may also add batting strength against Murali.

The mistake that India has to avoid is bringing in Harbhajan specially as a replacement of Kumble. If such a decision is ever taken, Dravid will be signing the obituary of the Indian team.

Sri Lanka however has no such worries, though it is expected that Marvan Atapattu may come in the place of Upul Tharanga to give him an opportunity to test his form.

If India has to come through this game, it would be necessary for the bowlers lead by Zaheer Khan and Kumble to fire along with  Munaf and Agarkar. It is important that India does not leave a void in its fifth bowling spot and hence Irfan would be a good choice for this match. Normally when we chose a team with 7 batsmen, we always think that the extra batsmen is required since one or two are bound to fail in a match. However, we seem to feel that no such cushion is required in the bowling department and often go with only 4 bowlers and by chance if one of them has an off-day, the attack will be thrown apart. Hence even though India has good part time bowlers in Sehwag, Yuvraj and Tendulkar, it is important for our victory that India carries a fifth bowler.

Some experts would suggest that we play Harbhajan as the fifth bowler. But this would be a mistake since we would be weakening the batting to a significant extent by drpping a promising batsman like Uthappa. A surprise but bold move which may give India an advantage is to replace Dhoni with Dinesh Karthik and in the event India has to bat first, use him as an opener with  Sehwag retained at number 3. Does Dravid has such courage?..Perhaps not…

I hope Dravid would be lucky in winning the toss and field first. This would provide some balance between the teams since otherwise Sri Lanka seem to hold the edge. Hopefully rain would not intervene and complicate the matters.

(More details of the Naavi Cricket Rating System, a specially structured system for the world cup are available at http://www.naavi.org/cwc_2007) 

 

Naavi

March 23, 2007

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