AHMEDABAD: India will have to quickly plug their batting shortcomings and pick the right team composition when they go into the second and final Twenty20 International against a buoyant Pakistan side here on Friday, hoping to level the two-match series 1-1.
India suffered a five-wicket drubbing in the series opener in Bangalore after a middle-order collapse, which saw the hosts struggle to 133 for nine after being 90 for two at one stage.
The hosts desperately need to win the second game at the Sardar Patel Stadium to level the series and the pressure will be on captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men to deliver the goods when it matters the most.
Apart from Gautam Gambhir (43) and Ajinkya Rahane (42), all the other batsmen failed to apply themselves when confronted against a strong bowling attack spearheaded by experienced fast bowler Umar Gul.
In fact, all-rounder Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina were the only ones other than the openers to have reached the double figures.
India would need the likes of Virat Kohli, Dhoni, Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma to regroup and fire in unison against the traditional rivals who are also equally determined to clinch the T20 series.
The bowling also remains a persistent headache for the Indians.
Except for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who finished with impressive figures of three for nine in his debut game, none of the other bowlers could trouble the Pakistani batsmen.
Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja all struggled to get wickets or even check the flow of runs.
The decision to leave out Ravichandran Ashwin in the last match was seen as a move that worked in Pakistan’s favour and Dhoni might be tempted to play the spinner in the must-win tie.
The Indians had opted to go in with three specialist seamers in the last match and it will be interesting to see whether they go in with the same strategy or include a spinner.
Dhoni’s decision to go in with Jadeja ahead of Ashwin also drew criticism.
“Ashwin was not there in this team. So our plan was that if we play out the new ball, then their spinners are not world class; I know Yuvraj is in great form, but when you don’t have a world class spinner then we can dominate,” Pakistan skipper Mohammed Hafeez said after the first match.
Besides, innumerable chances given to Rohit Sharma have also been the talking point and the Indian think-tank may have a lot of work to do before they settle for the playing XI for Friday’s match.
It will be interesting to see if a chance is given to Ambati Rayudu, considering his past performances in this format of the game.
Pakistan, on the other hand, lived up to their reputation of a strong bowling unit with three specialist pacers Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and lanky debutant Mohammad Irfan wrecking havoc on a pace-friendly Chinnaswamy track.
They would look to carry on the momentum on Friday also though the Sardar Patel track may not give them much assistance.
The visitors’ batting, however, has been a cause of concern for them with openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad struggling to provide a platform during their run chase at Bangalore.
Even the reliable Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi failed to get big scores.
Hafeez and Shoaib Malik were the saving grace and Pakistan would hope that they continue with their exploits along with the others striking form.
Dhoni had blamed the failure of the middle-order batsmen to capitalise on the good start as the reason for his team’s defeat in the first match.
“The batsmen got out trying to play big shots. We could have easily scored 200 if we had applied ourselves," Dhoni said in the post-match comments in Bangalore.
It remains to be seen whether the batsmen put up a better display now and not go for reckless shots in a bid to accelerate the pace of scoring.
Dhoni himself will be under intense pressure with his captaincy coming under the scanner in the aftermath of the recent Test debacle against England
He has always been regarded as a better captain in the shorter formats of the game, but the recent defeats in Twenty20 matches have certainly dented his reputation.
The defeats have come at home, where the team is playing in familiar conditions, and Dhoni has a tough task in lifting the morale of the team.
INDIA (from): Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Parvinder Awana.
PAKISTAN (probable): Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammed Hafeez (captain), Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan.
Umpires: Sudhir Asnani and Vineet Kulkarni (both India). TV umpire: Chettithody Shamsuddin (India). Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka).—Agencies