Dhoni has some tough decisions to take

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 26, 2012 06:46 hrs

That the West Indies made the Super Eights without winning a match reflects the farcical regulations and structure that govern the T20 World Cup where every "elite" team is given preferential treatment while the minnows are mere lambs to the slaughter and who make up the number. Never mind that the paid commentators fall over each other in taking a patronizing view of these "small teams".

I would say that the ICC wasted a full week in having these meaningless preliminary matches when in fact, they could have pegged the number to eight teams based on "world" rankings and completed the event in about 10 days time rather than drag it on for three weeks. But then, scheduling and structure are more to do with revenue generation than to present a quality tournament.

Anyway, the cricket thus far has been rather patchy and for all the "entertainment" that the minnows dished out, the fact was that barring Bangladesh, teams such as Ireland, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan have no place in the “big league”. Besides making up the number, these "little teams" only serve to dilute the event while the big boys get an opportunity to boost their personal records.

The Super Eights has India in the group of death along with Australia, South Africa and Pakistan with two teams to qualify for the semi-finals. A tough call by any yardstick to predict the two semi-finalists, but I would go with India and Pakistan, unless they play badly.

The two Asian neighbours seem to have the collective ability and talent to make progress, though one must concede that the virtues have to translate into performance. The same could be said of Sri Lanka who I expect to qualify along with the West Indies.

As for India, barring the poor form of Sehwag, who is sulking these days, it is a problem of plenty. Dhoni admitted as much that picking the playing eleven is a "welcome headache" though it would mean benching quality players, but as the captain rightly pointed out, the pitch conditions could dictate the selection.

For the game against England, I thought Dhoni erred in sending Pathan to open the batting. It was a replay of the decision to send the all-rounder up the order in the role of "pinch hitter" a few seasons ago. The move subsequently had a bad impact on Pathan who began to focus more on batting and eventually the bowling lost its sting leading to his exit from the Indian squad.

Hence, it is shocking that mistakes are being repeated when there is better choice than Pathan whom I feel should be left alone, especially since he has fought his way back into the squad. If Sehwag cannot be fitted in, then why not have Kohli open with Gambhir?

Surely, cricketing sense says that Kohli is a better batsman than Pathan and is no stranger to opening the innings. The move would also create a space in the line-up for an additional batsman or a bowler depending on the match conditions. It is more important to specify to Pathan his role in the squad and better still to have him bat in his normal lower middle-order slot.

Thus, we could have Kohli and Gambhir at the top, followed by Rohit Sharma, Raina, Yuvraj and Dhoni, ahead of five bowlers or include Tiwary if it is a four-bowler choice. I would still go with three specialist seamers (Zaheer, Irfan and Balaji) and one spinner (Ashwin) while the likes of Yuvraj, Raina, Rohit and even Kohli can comfortably share four overs.

Whatever the final choice is, Dhoni has some tough decisions to take. He was bold enough to make wholesale changes for the England game in a bid to provide every player an opportunity. While the return of Harbhajan who picked up four wickets was a welcome sign, his inclusion would mean a double-spin attack as Ashwin is central to the Indian bowling.

The captain has hinted that he is not averse to have three spinners and two seamers by including Chawla at the expense of Balaji, provided of course the pitch conditions favour such a choice.

At the moment, obviously we can only speculate on team compositions and outcome of the Super Eights, but I suspect that the weather Gods will also influence the results and that is an unknown that will remain so.

For me, there is another major influential element - marketing - that calls for an India vs Sri Lanka final which will attract massive viewership while guaranteeing a full house. Any bets? (Lest I am mistaken, I am not a bookie!).

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