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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Prem Panicker: If I was Dhoni, I'd bowl first at the MCG vs Bangladesh

Prem Panicker: If I was Dhoni, I'd bowl first at the MCG vs Bangladesh

Last updated on: March 17, 2015 18:18 IST

The best eight teams in World Cup 2015 are ready to face off for the cricketing world’s top honours. Who will scale the summit on March 29 at the MCG?

- Predict your FOUR World Cup semi-finalists

Will it be the underrated Bangladesh who have displayed the heart of a tiger, clawing up their way from an impossible position to the final 8? Can they dethrone reigning champions, India?

Or Dhoni's boys who just a couple of months ago, looked down in the mouth but who, in the last couple of weeks, have done a complete turnaround?

Could it be the all-weather favourites Australia marching relentlessly towards their 3rd World Cup triumph?

Or Pakistan, that mercurial team who, on its day, can beat the world?

Will New Zealand, its team full of fighters, finally be lucky?

Or can it be the Calypso kings, the West Indies, seeking a renaissance of their game?

Will Sangakkara the legend get the most memorable farewell a cricketer can hope for?

Can South Africa finally, finally shed their chokers tag and kiss the Cup?

Prem Panicker, a keen follower of the game and one of cricket’s finest writers, interacted with readers on the Rediff World Cup Chat and answered most of these questions. Check them out in the transcript below:

Prem Panicker
Good afternoon! Feels odd – in a very nice kind of way – to be on live cricket chat on Rediff again because this is where cricket started for me, back in 1996.

Prem Panicker
If it weren’t for Rediff I’d never have done cricket at all – I hadn't, in the six or so years before I joined the company. So yeah, feels like a homecoming. Thank you – both to Rediff for asking me and to you guys for joining me.

Prem Panicker
A HOUSEKEEPING POST: I’ll try and take as many questions as I can in the allotted time. But please read the responses so you don’t end up asking questions already answered – that will only clog up the question-area, and make it harder to find fresh ones. Thank you. Okay, hang on, reading questions now, responses begin two, three minutes from now.

Prem Panicker
Okay, the most common question thus far: Who will win the World Cup. One of you – Dinesh Pandya – added “According to your experience”. Short answer: I don’t know. No one does. Experience is worth nothing, once you get to the knock-out stage –all it takes is for one guy to have a bad day, or someone to have a great day, to overturn all calculations.

Prem Panicker
So here’s what I’ll do: next post: the four quarter finals, and my pick of who will win each. Here goes:

Rajeswar
Why Indian are not try with Ajinkya Rahane in opening slot, because ROHIT SHARMA is not scoring big

Prem Panicker
because at this point, with knock outs, you don't want to disturb the line-up unless you absolutely have to. Rahane has settled in at 4, to now move him up can be needless pressure on him, without accomplishing anything quantifiable

Prem Panicker
That sets up a March 24 semi-final of NZ vs. Sri Lanka, which I’d pick NZ to win, and a March 26 game between Australia and India, which I HOPE India can win, but it’s really a toss-up

sreeni vasan
What about Aswin trying too many things with Zimbabve? He had gone to his old style and forgot recently developed discipline. Will he continue it?

Prem Panicker
I suspect that day, Ashwin bowled flat and quick mostly, because he was wary of the very short boundaries. The quarterfinal is back at the MCG, where he has bowled before, and where his flight and loop have really worked, so I think that one game was an aberration.

Prem Panicker
Quarterfinal picks: March 18: South Africa versus Sri Lanka – I’m going to be counter-intuitive and pick SL. March 19: India to defeat Bangladesh. March 20: Australia to defeat Pakistan. March 21: New Zealand to defeat West Indies.

Raju-Shirsat
but rather than malinga SL haven’t good in bowling dept.

ravindra-gulgi
MCG favourars spinners Aksharas to be in ani Mohitth ou

Prem Panicker
If the Indian team wanted to try Akshar, it should have been at some stage during the league. While I agree that all players should be ready at an instant's notice, to now toss him in there in a must-win situation is a huge risk that I doubt Dhoni will take unless he absolutely has to.

ravindra-gulgi
Winning combination is a must or myth

Prem Panicker
If matches could be won simply by picking a "combination" then the team sheet will give you the result, no? All sorts of factors are at work: pitch, toss, opposition, and form on the day. You pick the best combination you have, make sure everyone knows what is expected of them, and then it's how well you combine on the day.

Dipak Mali
Do you expect to see some changes in the QF 11?

Prem Panicker
you can never tell -- I mean, check Pakistan, they just lost Irfan, so they MUST

Prem Panicker
SORRY, INCOMPLETE ANSWER: I was saying, Pak now forced to change, no? And who knows what can happen with Indian players in the next 48 hours? That said, I don't see a change unless it is forced on them.

Aatish Jagmanani
Holder was brilliant with the ball against the UAE, but the Black Caps batsmen present a whole different challenge.

Prem Panicker
I agree. Holder was superb that day, yes, but the Kiwi top order has played high quality pace, it is on their home ground, and Holder has yet to be seriously attacked -- plus, a bowler needs back up at the other end, and someone like Roach needs to up his game for Holder to have an influence.

Abdul Warith
Indians have found their success once they combined Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja in the team. It shortens the tail significantly but also has totally changed the middle overs of their games.

Prem Panicker
I think the way India has structured their line up, they are looking at Dhoni being the pivot between the upper and lower halves, and Jadeja and Aswhin as being the buffer zone before the tail. It works, though I *might* be tempted to move Ashwin ahead of Jadeja, he is the more accomplished batsman, really.

Raju-Shirsat
if india has to beat aus then what area's they should target.

Prem Panicker
In ODIs the key always is the first 10 overs, and it doesn't matter against who. IF India can keep Aus from getting off to a flier if they bat first, or if the Indian batsmen can keep Starc and Johnson from breaking through early, then we are a great chance.

mustafa
Did you expect this quarter final line up?

Prem Panicker
I expected 7 of the 8 teams to make it, but not the lineup -- that depends on group standings, no? The only surprise, and a good one, for me is England being knocked out. At best, I thought West Indies might be. That said, England's game didn't deserve a QF spot, so it's good really they are out

Raju-Shirsat
when ravindra jadeja last score 50 or taken 3-5 wickets or man of the match? they why he is playing in the team. get an extra batsman or an quality bowler in.

Prem Panicker
I am not a huge fan of Jadeja, frankly. But that said, he is in the side as fifth bowler and 7th batsman. Those are supporting roles -- not match winning roles. And I think he has combined very well, particularly with Ashwin, thus far, so I am not sure I see a very valid reason to move him out now. Also see earlier reply about Akshar.

Raju-Shirsat
but in other teams 7th batsman doing match winning job. brad haddin, thisara parera,

Prem Panicker
Raju, before posting the same question over and over, read the transcript please? I have already responded to you. Thanks.

SAMEER
Don't you think Yuvarj would have been a better choice as against Jadeja with his vast experience and last WC's performance.

Prem Panicker
"Experience" is only as good as form and fitness allow it to be. For that matter, wouldn't Ponting have been great for Australia given his three-Cup winning experience? I don't think Yuvraj has been in decent consistent form for some time now.

Raju-Shirsat
why cris gayle was out of playing 11 in wi last match

Prem Panicker
Injured, they said, but who knows with Gayle? He just might have decided not to bother -- that guy marches to the beat of his own drummer.

Raju-Shirsat
can pakistan beat Aus?what are the chances? i think if afridi opens the inning they have best chances.

Prem Panicker
Acfridi versus Starc? I doubt it -- Aus bowlers aren't going to give him any room to free his arms. Pak losing Irfan is a big blow. They still have the bowling to challenge Aus -- bowl first, get Aus in pressure and then who knows? But I don't see the batting matching the Aus firepower, frankly, at the SCG.

rengachariar santhanam
Video display on Weak Zone is being telecast beautifully on all live matches. IN spite of this kind of technical facility available to all players, why dont they correct their weakness in quicktime , according to situation.

Prem Panicker
:-) My editor at Rediff keeps telling me to mind my spellings. I write on Word, which has spell check available, so why can't I correct? The answer, simply, is that you can't be making technical adjustments in the middle of a tournament -- your game will go to pieces. It is during the off periods that you can work on such things.

Amol Dhurve
Ashwin, in particular comes on and takes wickets, and slows the run rate. India has a point of difference now, as they were never going to match Australia, New Zealand or South Africa with pace alone.

Prem Panicker
Yeah. I like the bowling mix India has now -- two opening bowlers who are quick and sharp; a third seamer who is very steady on line and length, an attacking spinner, a defensive spinner, and two non-regular bowlers with variety in case one of the top five gets tonked badly.

ulfat
Will India be in finals because it means big bucks for all concerned -- broadcasters, et al? Is that why India was in Group B which had the weaker players?

Prem Panicker
The groups were clearly drawn up to ensure big teams -- the ones advertisers like -- make it into the knock outs. But I doubt that the ICC or advertisers or anyone else is fixing the QFs to make sure India gets in -- that we got Bangladesh was because we played very well through the league, and thus got to top the group.

Ivan
Hi Prem, Against Bangladesh, should Dhoni persist with his winning combination or include and extra spinner at the MCG?

Prem Panicker
No, why would you want to meddle? I think India finally did well going against its favorite seven batsmen formula and using five bowlers. Raina was used in one game, and clearly knows the plan -- line of fourth stump or off, tight angles, packed off fields. I doubt we need another spinner -- be superfluous, no?

Jinny
How is India going to fare against NZ and Aus? They shattered against them in the Tri Series

Prem Panicker
If you use the tri-series as a form guide, India should have been knocked out by now. I think they have changed their game plans entirely -- the break seems to have helped them rethink and re-practice. Not saying India will have it easy against either Aus or NZ -- just that tri-series form is no indicator. Eng made the finals then, no? Where are they now?

Lachman Kotak
It must be quite difficult to write differently, since there are so many writers in the fray now. How do you manage to find a refreshing viewpoint to keep the readers engaged.

Prem Panicker
I am not writing to be different from other writers -- I watch the game, what happens leads me to think of things, sometimes to do some research, and I write based on how I see it all unfold. Thank you for the kind words implicit in the question.

Rahul-S
i see AUS as world cup winners.? they deserve it.

Prem Panicker
:-) Who doesn't "deserve" it? You win because you play well on the day -- not because of some karma or inherited merit or past history or any such thing. Actually, if we are talking of deserving, I think NZ really does -- great all round team, been having great Cup outings without quite making it thus far, feels like it is now or never, or at least not for a long time after.

Amol chille
As a Kiwi I am hoping that Gayle’s injury hampers him somewhat; he is capable of taking the game away from the Black Caps.

Prem Panicker
I was watching the Kiwi bowlers, mate -- I think Gayle is not going to get the room he wants against Boult and company. Their pace is what everyone is talking about, but what impressed me most about Boult and Southee in particular is the ability to alter lines to suit batsmen, and then hold with great control. And at pace.

Satish Pulli
A reasonable summary of the teams’ performances so far but I have to take issue with you referring to the Bangladeshi bowlers as ‘medium-pacers’. Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed both bowl consistently in the 140-145 range. They might not be the best bowlers in the competition but they are sharp enough to be considered fast bowlers.

Prem Panicker
Um sorry, I should have said fast-medium, my bad, and I agree about Rubel and Taskin. Not just pace, they are also bowling with stellar control. In any case, pace only helps so far. Throughout his career, McGrath was the slowest of Aus bowlers -- and Eng, SA had quicker ones -- yet he was the number one match winner every time. So yeah.

mahadevan ravi
In 1987 it was the asian neighbours as the hosts to be knocked out by Australia and england the eventual finalists.,how possible it is for India and the Lankans to do it to the current hosts at their den.

Prem Panicker
I am no great believer in history repeating. For instance in 2011, history said no host country could ever win, no? I think the teams are quite well balanced this time , and at least Aus, NZ, SL and India are all a more or less equal chance. I'd add SA to it, but I am not quite sure I like the way they break down under threat.

Satish Pulli
A reasonable summary of the teams’ performances so far but I have to take issue with you referring to the Bangladeshi bowlers as ‘medium-pacers’. Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed both bowl consistently in the 140-145 range. They might not be the best bowlers in the competition but they are sharp enough to be considered fast bowlers.

Prem Panicker
Um sorry, I should have said fast-medium, my bad, and I agree about Rubel and Taskin. Not just pace, they are also bowling with stellar control. In any case, pace only helps so far. Throughout his career, McGrath was the slowest of Aus bowlers -- and Eng, SA had quicker ones -- yet he was the number one match winner every time. So yeah.

mahadevan ravi
in 1987 it was the asian neighbours as the hosts to be knocked out by Australia and england the eventual finalists.,how possible it is for India and the Lankans to do it to the current hosts at their den.

Prem Panicker
I am no great believer in history repeating. For instance in 2011, history said no host country could ever win, no? I think the teams are quite well balanced this time , and at least Aus, NZ, SL and India are all a more or less equal chance. I'd add SA to it, but I am not quite sure I like the way they break down under threat.

SAMEER
I feel if Sri lanka bats first in QF they had a real chance of knocking out SA.I think the entire SL team are keen to win the world cup for their SACHIN ( The Run Machine Sanga..)

Prem Panicker
If you read my QF picks at the start of this chat, I actually did pick SL to beat SA. No prediction survives contact with ground realities on the day, but my gut says, if SL plays the way they are now, they could topple the Proteas.

Prem Panicker
Dilshan, Mahela, Mathews. Chandimal if he is fit after that injury. Those four -- with Sanga (oh god, what a player he's been over the years) as the anchoring element is a devastating combination. Bowling, not as strong, so batting will have to win it.

tushar
I liked the masterchef and godfather touch in your last column :P

Prem Panicker
*LOL* Thank you -- I keep watching Dhoni and thinking, geez, he is like a mafia don (I mean that in a good way).

Rahul-S
what planning bangladesh should make for indian team.

Prem Panicker
*LOL* As Azharuddin used to say before games: bat well, bowl well, field well. No, seriously -- Bangladesh needs to ensure that the Indian top four don't get going. If they can knock them over for around 100, 120, game on. And with the bat, if they lose wickets in the first 10, odds are against them -- India does the middle overs very well.

hitansh
Dhoni has been a good captain for India hasn't he? Would we have come this far without him? What happens to Team India when he retires?

Prem Panicker
We asked "what happens" when Kumble, Laxman, Dravid, Sachin, players like that retired, no? And before that, Kapil, Sunny, Pras, Bedi, Chandra... same conversations, different players. Dhoni goes, someone else will come -- Virat, likely. But yes, he has been very good -- in the one day/limited format. Tests, not so much.

rakesh
Kohli is too flamboyant isn't he... will his starry nakhras come in the way of his performance... on field?

Prem Panicker
Has it, so far? I think cricket doesn't encourage characters, but the greatest players have all been "starry" -- Viv Richards, Botham, Lillee, Gower, Flintoff, Sehwag -- many more like that, but those guys are match winners because they don't belong to a cookie cutter type. Individualism is concomittant with brilliance, often.

Kartik D
Your take on how many teams should be in 2019 World Cup? And on the Associates?

Prem Panicker
Sachin wanted 24, or so he said. Dravid wants 14. I'm with Dravid. Also, I'd submit that the key is having the Associates play games during the four years between Cups -- not simply throwing them onto the world stage once in four years. I'd want to make it mandatory for each big team to host an associate, at least once home and away.

Aditya-Misra
Do you think Ashwin will be effective against Bangladesh, Lanka or Pakistan?

Prem Panicker
Why ever not? I mean, by that logic you'd need a bowler for every team you face, no? If you are an international bowler, you need to be able to bowl well against those who can play spin, not just those who can't. I think if Ashwin bowls the way he did in the league (minus Ireland), he will do well. No matter who you are, good spin is hard to play.

Rahul-S
i think sangakkara hasn't given his credit for hitting his 4 centuries. if someone from india or aus have done that then he will be treated like a superstar.

Prem Panicker
I think Sanga hasn't been given credit for anything. Not just the four centuries. He's been Lanka's backbone; he keeps a full innings and then bats near the top; he is the voice of the Lankan cricket conscience -- crippling pressures, all of those, and yet he seems able to overcome them with ease.

Aditya-Misra
I am pretty sure there won't be any change in the playing 11 for QF match. But why do we not try some other players too, Ashwwin has been so costly.

Prem Panicker
He was costly in ONE game, after being influential in five. Come on, mate -- by that token, you should drop everyone; each of them has failed in some game or other, no?

Ram Thakkar
I guess you forgot Dada while answering hitansh.

Prem Panicker
Oh no -- Sourav, certainly. Actually, for me "characters" in Indian cricket start with Kunderan, Engineer, Durrani, Pat, Jaisimha, and all the way through to Sehwag et al. We've had our share, thank god for that. These colorless all of a kind players bore me pallid.

Rajesh Gurumoorthy
Axar for Jadeja in the KOs? Agreed that Axar hasnn't played in the WC so far, but he's a better bowler than Jadeja in any condition? Besides, it adds the 'surprise' dimension. Jadeja has been poor with the bat as well. Ashwin at 7 and Axar at 8? Thoughts?

Prem Panicker
How do we know how good a bowler Akshar is "in any condition", though? I am not saying he is not. Merely saying, if that was part of the planning, it would have been fair to give him a low-pressure outing. Huge difference bowling in nets, versus in the middle in a must-win game. He screws up, everyone blames him, he is finished, and he will feel that pressure. Unfair, I think.

Kailash Bagri
Do you think India is a better chasing team or should they bat first. Yes, it would depend on the pitch but in a knockout game you often back your strength.

Prem Panicker
Too many variables -- pitch, etc. But if you look at only the next game? I'd want to bowl first. MCG, challenging ground, the opposition will feel the pressure of needing to put up a big score without knowing what that score is -- I'd use that. Also plays to our ability to chase.

Romil
Why are we faring so badly on the MVP list... what does that say about our players?

Prem Panicker
:-) Who cares, boss? All of that is just talking points, no? I mean, England were seeded first in this competition, which should tell you all you need to know about "rankings". Besides, I think it is dangerous when you expect one player to be totemic. I prefer teams playing as a unit, frankly.

Pradyumna Pathak
winning the toss and batting first is has been success mantra especially at Melbourne, Adelaide & Sydney.You don't think it is unfair that only toss decides outcome of big matches ??in second innings pitch tends to get slow and chasing beyond 260-70 is very difficult, why ICC doesn't look into making pitches true till 100 overs completed..??

Prem Panicker
If "only the toss" decided the outcome, wouldn't you turn the TV off as soon as you knew who called right? It doesn't quite work that way. Sure, there are patterns -- which is like, in places with heavy due, you don't want to bowl last if you can help it. But you still have to go out there and bat.

Ram Thakkar
Have you ever felt that CSK players have got special recognition under Dhoni like Raina, Jadeja Ashwin & Mohit. Even Ishwar Pandey stepped into first team after he joined CSK but he was performing good in Ranji from past some time.

Prem Panicker
No. I don't think of CSK players or KKR players or whatever -- I follow the Indian team, not some IPL outfit. CSK buys players with performance and potential, good for them, but why should they be singled out for special recognition when talking of the national team?

Rahul-S
who is the most valuable player from the WC matches played so far? and who u think will be watch out players in upcoming matches?

Prem Panicker
Too many to list. Some of my favorites: Starc. AB. And I am not joking about these two: Mahmadullah and Misbah. Mohit Sharma -- seriously, have you seen an Indian quick bowler who has fielded better, that too inside the circle AND in the deep? And so on. I don't go by lists and averages, actually. Oh: Soumya Sarkar. Etc.

Dipak Mali
I believe that the Indian team had it too easy in league matches barring few exceptions. Neither bowling nor batting is tested to the level of the tournament and stage we are at... Do you agree?

Prem Panicker
Hahahaha -- dude, there were only 6 league games. "Too easy barring few exceptions" is true of almost any league phase in any sport, no? And India can only play the teams it has to play, what to do. That said, before the tournament, everyone said the games against Pak, SA all very tough.

Ram Thakkar
Agree with you, but looking at Shrinivasan's influence, and Dhoni's closeness to him, it makes me doubt about them.

 Prem Panicker
*shrug* Thing is, Srini can do a lot of things, but he can't make a player actually hit a ball with his bat. That you have to do for yourself. And btw, after Dhoni, the most influential player is Virat, who is not CSK -- which seems to defeat that theory a little :-)

Ivan
Prem, your take... may sound silly, but if you were Dhoni, bat or field on winning the toss vs Bangladesh?

Prem Panicker
If I was Dhoni, I'd be riding one of my 33 bikes just now. Or practising. *g* Sorry -- no, seriously, I'd bowl first at the MCG vs Bangladesh. For sure.

Prem Panicker
Okay, responded to questions about Yuvraj, about Akshar Patel et al earlier, and now I really need to go. Seriously, folks, this was real fun, I enjoyed it, hope you did too. Be good, and hey, see you at the cricket. THANK YOU, REDIFF. *gone*

Don't miss these columns by Prem Panicker on World Cup 2015!