Colombo: The Indian batsmen must be worried, very worried. Is any total they post safe? Will they continuously be let down by their bowlers? Yesterday's practice game against Pakistan was the last chance that the Indian team think-tank had to get their combination right before they kick-start their campaign in the T20 World Cup on Wednesday.
But if they were looking for any solutions to their confusions, there were none. India couldn't even defend a strong total of 185.
• Pakistan’s Kamran Akmal (centre) and Shoaib Malik (left) celebrate their team’s victory agianst India at The R. Premadasa Cricket Stadium in Colombo yesterday
The confusion came out at the toss itself when MS Dhoni announced that they will be using twelve players during the game as they weren't quite sure whether to play an extra bowler or an batsman.
It's not as if they don't have any batting problems — Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir struggled to get them to a decent start. And it's not a new development. They failed to do so in the season-opening Test series against New Zealand, in the lone T20 against the same opponents and the twin practice games here ahead of the tournament.
Yesterday, once again, Gambhir looked iffy outside the off stump and was eventually dismissed, dragging one on to his stumps. Sehwag played a typical short and sour knock that he so often plays in the limited over format these days.
He hit Tanveer Sohail for a six, carted Mohammed Sami for three boundaries in an over but perished again in a soft manner, cutting Saeed Ajmal to Shahid Afridi behind square.
So it was left to two men at contrasting positions in their careers to put India back on track. While Virat Kohli, who scored 75, is in that kind of a form where he has to just turn up on the park for runs to flow, Rohit Sharma, who made 56, has found it difficult to answer questions about his inability to turn talent into runs. Yesterday, the two added 127 for the third wicket in 13.5 overs to help India reach 185.
It should have been enough for a decent bowling attack but India were shambolic with the ball. Only R Ashwin, playing together with the man he replaced, did his best to give India a hope by picking Mohammed Hafeez (38) and Shahid Afridi (0) in the same over but rest of the bowlers couldn't do enough to stop Kamran Akmal (92) and Shoaib Malik (37), who added 95 runs for the sixth wicket to take Pakistan home with five balls to spare.
Akmal hit L Balaji for two sixes, first over mid-wicket and other over square leg and finished the chase with a six over covers off Irfan Pathan.
The thinness of his bowling attack might not bother Dhoni against Afghanistan but with better oppositions he will have to hope that his batsman come good all the time. Will it be too much to ask for?
India 185 for 3 (Kohli 75 not out, Rohit 56, Ajmal 2-22) lost to Pakistan: 186 for 5 (K Akmal 92 not out, Hafeez 38, Malik 37 not out) by five wickets
MSD happy despite loss
India captain Mahendra Singh was happy with the way his boys warmed-up for the World Twenty20 despite losing the practice game. “It was a good test for the main tournament and it was a good game.
We could test which combination would be the best for the tournament,” Dhoni said. “We bowled well in the last few overs though I felt we gave too many runs with the new ball by our fast bowlers.
But apart from that it was a good game for all of us,” he added. Dhoni said that India would prefer to play all the matches with seven-batsmen-four-bowler combination in the tournament.
“It’s a difficult choice whether to pick an extra bowler (fifth bowler) and drop a batsman. I have batsmen who can be used as part-timers and we are a side that is comfortable playing seven batsmen,” said Dhoni. Dhoni was happy to see Rohit Sharma come back to form in the two warm-up matches.
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