CHENNAI: Pakistan’s win over New Zealand is probably the best result from an Indian perspective. While England are in pole position to advance from Group 1 — they have now won two in two and look good to even hold both World Cups at the same time — Group 2 is no less fascinating.
With Pakistan’s wins coming against two strong opponents — India being the other side — they will fancy their chances against all three of the other sides, Afghanistan, Namibia and Scotland. Even two wins would be enough to take them to the semifinals, unless their net run rate takes a hit.
That being the case, it is going to be a a three-way fight for the one remaining spot to qualify from Group 2. Apart from India and New Zealand, Afghanistan too are a team in contention, they won’t be pushovers in these conditions. Given they play Namibia and New Zealand in the afternoon, the absence of dew mean they have the conditions to make most use of their spinners. As far as New Zealand are concerned, they play three of four remaining matches in the afternoon. Their only remaining night match is against India on Sunday.
All of this leaves India in a slight position of bother. Apart from Afghanistan, all of their games are in Dubai where captains have opted to field first with their eyes closed. The onset of dew in the second-half of the match means spinners have been neutralised. So unless pacers get the early breakthroughs and are intelligent with the use of variations, it is near impossible to defend totals. “Toss definitely is going to be a factor in this tournament. If the dew keeps creeping in in the latter half the game, you need those extra runs in the first half then,” India captain Virat Kohli said after match against Pakistan.
Going back to IPL and now, out of the 12 matches played in Dubai, only one has been won by the team batting first. That was Chennai Super Kings who put up 192, way above the par score on a new surface. Although the average first innings total in international T20s in 2021 in Dubai is 116.33, that’s way short of 156.23 during the IPL. With dew around, it is essential to add at least 30 more runs to be on the safer side while defending.
However, it’s easier said than done. In the IPL final, Chennai were able to go for a big total against a bowling line-up that had three good spinners only because they had depth in their batting. It is the luxury that franchise cricket provides. It is one India doesn’t have.
In that regard, India may be tempted to bring in Ishan Kishan in place of Hardik Pandya or even Suryakumar Yadav. The all-rounder injured his right shoulder against Pakistan and on Wednesday he bowled during the net session. However, it is understood that India will not rush him unless he is fully confident of his bowling.
If Pandya is going to be used only as a batsman, Ishan would be a welcome addition. Apart from being a left-hander who could affect opposition’s match-up plans, Ishan can be used as a floater. Even on the pitches in Dubai, he scored three fifties in seven innings for Mumbai Indians. Given in Ravindra Jadeja, India have an in-form finisher, playing Ishan over Pandya would give India an edge.
With Kiwis having Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, having an additional left-hander will also be an advantage should boundaries be shorter on one side. After the loss against Pakistan, India need to get back to winning ways against New Zealand or risk saying goodbye to their own party.