May 14, 1999
On paper India has a good chance
It's only a couple of days to go before the first ball is bowled in the World Cup '99. And going by all the wailing about the weather being supportive for seam bowling, that first ball should be more likely than not, producing a wicket! Ha! Seaming pitches or not, in the practice matches, the touring sides have been scoring at a healthy run rate and totals have been swelling to even more than 300 in a couple of occassions, and then they are getting the opposition out for a meagre total. Though I do not intend to compare the national sides with the mediocre looking county sides minus their stars, I do believe it is the quality of bowling that is going to restrict the scoring than the pitch doing more than warranted.
May be, the good balls will get wickets, but then they do so even on flat pitches. Bad balls will only get dispatched for runs. Teams like Bangladesh, Scotland, and Kenya, which are weak bowling sides, are going to gain nothing more than "experience" in this World Cup.
I'm tired of the talks that "IF" India bats and bowls well, then it will win the cup. C'mon guys, that's true for ANY team. Don't expect anything if India gets bowled out for under a 150, you can always hope so, though. It is heartening to see Dravid, Tendulkar, Azhar, and Jadeja among runs. Hope Ganguly also chips in with a few. Meaning that the pitch is NOT the major obstacle in their way, it would be the quality of bowling determining the damage. Dravid and Ganguly have been among runs in England, Azhar is a veteran, Jadeja is in good touch and generally it is safe to assume Tendulkar will do well most of the times, a great batsman that he is. So, on paper India has a good chance.
Contrary to the general perception in the air, I believe that the non regular bowlers will not do as well as they are hyped to do. They would NOT be the determining factor in most cases in the outcome of a match, there always are exceptions. It is because the small-seamed Duke bowl is not going to swing as much as the balls earlier used did. India's bowling would still depend heavily on Srinath, Prasad and Company. Looking globally, whatever the conditions and pitches, one must always be wary of the likes of Akram, Ambrose, Mcgrath, Donald, Walsh, Saqlain, Kumble etc. These are the real and proven world class bowlers who will get wickets on any kind of pitches because they have a thinking head and a burning desire to win.
The grounds in England are somewhat smaller than ones we have back in India. So don't be surprised to see more than a couple of sixes from the bats of sloggers like Akram, Jayasuriya, Afridi etc., even from mishits. I still believe that it is a batsman game even in England, and a team cannot score 225 and rest assured of a victory, as unfortunately what Gaekwad was looking at as a winning total. If India goes with the mentality that scoring more than 225 is going to get them the game, then I can bet they are going to get a surprise or two. And it better not be two, if they are to have any chance whatsoever to get past the super six stage.
Personally I feel India does not have the bowling that I would want to compare with Pakistan's or South Africa's, or for that matter, even Australia's. It is the batting that is going to win them the matches, if at all. And looking from the sidelines, I can hear that sweet sound coming out of the willows of the Indians. How often I'll swell my heart at that sound is another matter.
Editor's note: This is a guest column. If you want to write a column for us, here's how to go about it.