Wednesday 13 December 2017

Indians fearful of new green threat


THERE is now so much interest in Ireland's game against India that the Bangalore Mirror yesterday reported a crack police squad had been sent in to combat black market ticket trading.

The mayor of the city is also overcome with excitement, demanding 700 tickets for his cronies, 200 more than he wanted last week. There is little doubt that India will not take the Irish lightly. The paper also prints a long list of reasons why India should fear Ireland. India fear Ireland? What a long way we have come.

Kevin O'Brien's life-changing innings has ensured that this game -- an apparent mismatch a week ago -- will be one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of the tournament. It has also thrown Indian strategy into disarray. The hosts' attack is not its strongest card, and its one world class bowler, Zaheer Khan, is highly injury-prone. But the plan to wrap him in cotton-wool and let him sit out this game has been shelved.

Every notable Indian player of the last 30 years has had his say about what should be done, with Sourav Ganguly insisting that India needs three seamers while Sanjay Manjrekar wants a more spin-oriented attack. Manjrekar is probably right, as Ireland have been less prolific against spin in this tournament. O'Brien destroyed the England seamers, showing a liking for the ball coming on to the bat.

Ireland, too, have their problems with the ball, but their planning hinges on the fitness of Andre Botha, whose chances of playing were yesterday rated as no better than 50-50. Should Botha be fit, he will come into the side -- but who he replaces is not yet decided. Ireland may yet decide to retain Gary Wilson and leave out Boyd Rankin, who has had an unhappy tournament to date.

It will be a big risk to leave out Ireland's fastest bowler, and the one most likely to get some bounce out of the pitch -- but it may be a bigger risk to select him. Rankin has struggled with his direction so far, and will be bowling at the start to two of the best batsman in the world.

Virender Sehwag can destroy an attack in half an hour with his carefree approach to batting. And at the other end is the greatest batsman of modern times, Sachin Tendulkar, who played his first World Cup innings in 1991, the year before Ireland's George Dockrell was born.

To be fair, few bowlers have thrived in this tournament. Grounds have been made smaller and wickets neutered to ensure runs are easy to come by. The Chinnaswamy is the worst in this regard, with huge totals coming on tracks baked hard and flat by the unrelenting sun. A run-fest is in store, what remains to be seen is if any Irish batsman can even come close to playing an innings like Kevin O'Brien's.

India v Ireland,

Sky Sports 2, 9.0

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