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India need to lift their game

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh take a break during a practice session. (Top) Pakistan captain Mohammed Hafeez inspects the pitch,
in Ahmedabad, on Thursday. (PTI)

Ahmedabad: A thrilling T20 match which was decided in the last over, a pitch that had enough for the batsmen as well as the bowlers, collapses and fightbacks… The attention is in every detail.

But for India, every detail should be attended with utmost care. After the loss of face against England, it was very important from the Indian perspective that they earn a positive result against Pakistan.

By virtue of losing the first match, India can no longer win the two-match T20 international series against Pakistan. But a win in the second match, here, on Friday, would enable them to square the series. Given the way they goofed it up in Bangalore, the Mahendra Singh Dhonis certainly need to lift their game, by quite a few notches, in order to get the better of their neighbours.

India will need to plug their batting shortcomings and ensure that the bowlers contain the Pakistan batsmen, especially during the middle and slog overs. More importantly, captain Dhoni needs to get his team composition right in the first place.

The world around Dhoni is no longer the same place it used to be after April 2, 2011, when India were crowned the world champions in the one-day format. Losses, home and away, have raised questions about the man who led India to two World Cup triumphs.

Things were already bad after the England series. After the T20 loss against Pakistan, on Tuesday, it is threatening to turn worse. For Dhoni that is.

Under such circumstances, it will be important for Dhoni to showcase his leadership skills and guide his team to a victory. The win is important, not only to square the series, but also to get the necessary confidence boost ahead of the three-match ODI series. That’s because any slip up in the ODI series may mean that it wouldn’t be a very happy new year for the India captain.

But then, achieving a positive result on Friday will not be that easy. You need to work hard.

Going by the Indian team’s practice session on Thursday, one could see that Dhoni and others are putting in the extra yards.

Dhoni was the first Indian player to enter the ground on the match-eve. Immediately, he went to inspect the pitch and took a good look at the wicket for nearly 10 minutes along with Suresh Raina.

He was also among the first batsmen to hit the nets. After some knocking practice, against net bowler, he left the nets to have a lengthy discussion with spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Piyush Chawla.

Interestingly, during his 45-minute net session, Dhoni played just the spinners. One assumes that he was trying his best to find a way to combat the spin of Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi, especially after the way he was castled by the former.

But India’s batting will not depend solely on Dhoni’s success against spinners. The other batsmen also need to contribute. What was lacking in the batsmen in the first T20 was application. Though it is a slam-bang format, it still requires a good dose of common sense to find success. The Indians, at times, lacked that in Bangalore.

Traditionally, the batsmen have always struggled on bouncy pitches. On Tuesday, their frailties again came to the fore on a lively Chinnaswamy pitch.

However, Dheeraj Parsana, curator at the Motera, has prepared a pitch which promises plenty of runs. “I know the strength of the Indian team lies in their batting… So, I have prepared a pitch which will aid their batsmen,” Parsana said.

The pitch may be perfect, but the Indians will still have to iron out their imperfections. Not only did the experienced Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir trouble the Indian batsmen in the last match, newcomer Mohammed Irfan’s ability to find bounce also found the home team uneasy.

Equally important will be the Indian bowlers’ role and their ability to contain the Pakistan batsmen in the middle overs. After the splendid performance of their frontline bowlers, the part-timers could not live up to the expectations in Bangalore.

Coming to team composition, Dhoni’s move to play an extra-batsman instead of a spinner had backfired. So, in all likelihood, Ravichandran Ashwin will return to the team while Ashok Dinda might have to sit out. Ravindra Jadeja’s place in the team is also uncertain and he may be replaced by Piyush Chawla.

If India are feeling the heat, Pakistan can afford to breathe easy. They have thrived in difficult conditions and will be looking to outsmart their opponents once again on Friday.

Teams

India (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin/Ashok Dinda, Ravindra Jadeja/Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Pakistan (likely): Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammed Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammed Irfan, Sohail Tanveer, Umar Gul

Umpires: Sudhir Asnani, Vineet Kulkarni

TV: Shamsuddin

Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama

Match starts: 5pm