Over the course of the next two games India will face arguably the two teams with the greatest firepower in their batting line-ups at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
First, they take on the West Indies at Old Trafford, knowing a victory would put them within touching distance of the semi-finals, before a clash with England at Edgbaston.
And as they prepare for the challenge of subduing the Windies’ big hitters on Thursday, bowling coach Bharat Arun believes there will be opportunities against such an aggressive team.
He said: “They’re an outstanding side and they play real positive cricket. We are aware of the challenges that exist in this game. And I think our plans are pretty much in place and we are up for the challenge.
“They do have their strengths. And also it’s a big challenge for the bowlers too – especially when they come after you. But whenever batsmen come after you, if you’re willing to look at it deeply, there is a chance for it – in it for the bowlers, and I think that’s what the bowlers would be looking to do.”
One player who has emerged with great credit from a bowling perspective for India has been Hardik Pandya, who played a crucial role in the wins over Afghanistan and Pakistan.
His development has given the Indian selectors greater flexibility, and Arun explained how he has expanded his repertoire in order to become a reliable option to bowl a full complement of ten overs.
He said: “Over a period time it was a big challenge for Hardik to bowl those 10 overs, and he realised that to be able to bowl those 10 overs he needed to develop a certain armoury in his bowling.
“And that’s what he’s worked on. He’s worked on his slow balls, his slow bouncers also, and also he’s worked on perfecting his bouncers. So all these put together have given him the confidence to go through those 10 overs.”
While India remain unbeaten, they were given a scare by Afghanistan in their last match, the first time their batsmen have not really fired in the competition.
Instead it was Mohammed Shami who saw the team home, taking a hat-trick in the final over to seal an 11-run victory, and Arun revealed how a conversation when Shami was dropped back in 2018 had helped him turn things around.
Arun said: “It was a pretty long conversation. Shami was in a totally different mindset. And we had to – the head coach, me, all of us had to sit down and speak to him and kind of draw a future map for him and had to convince him regarding that. And he was going through certain personal problems as well at that point in time.
“So beyond all that, I think what has really got him into the situation that he is, his ability to play cricket and that’s exactly what we made him focus on. And I think the rest is there for everybody to see.”
Eoin Morgan refuted Kevin Pietersen’s opinion that the England captain had ‘looked scared’ while facing Mitchell Starc in his side’s Cricket World Cup loss to Australia on Tuesday.
Former England batsman Pietersen made his claim on Twitter, adding: “I’ve not seen a captain show such a weakness for a while.”
Asked at the post-match news conference whether he had feared the Aussie fast bowler, Morgan said: “No. No. I didn’t feel like that way at all.”
Morgan managed just four runs in the match at Lord’s though, falling to Starc, and England lost the match by 64 runs to put their hopes of reaching the semi-finals in doubt.
West Indies’ Chris Gayle was expected to hang up his international boots post the completion of the 2019 ICC World Cup but the veteran batsman has now declared his intentions to extend his career beyond the tournament.
Gayle had earlier announced his intentions to retire from international cricket after the World Cup in England but the Jamaican is now looking to feature in the home ODI series against India which takes place in August.
The 39-year-old is not only looking to play in the 50-over series but is also aiming to make a comeback to the Test setup for the first time since September, 2014.
“My plans after the World Cup, may be play a Test match against India,” Gayle said on the eve of Windies’ clash against India at Old Trafford.
“And then I’ll definitely play the ODIs against India. I won’t play the T20s,” he added.
Gayle’s about-turn came as a surprise to even skipper Jason Holder who ultimately welcomed the veteran’s desire to extend his West Indies career.
“I just found out as well,” said Holder on Wednesday.
“So, I guess I’ll have to go downstairs and have a serious conversation with him but if he is dedicated to play for the West Indies any longer then I feel it’s definitely going to benefit us.
“He didn’t say anything really in the dressing room. But yeah, it’s great. It’s great for cricket. It’s good to have Chris around as I said before. He’s got a lot to offer still, I believe and hopefully his body could hold up and he could hopefully be on the cricket field for a little longer for West Indies.”
Gayle has so far played 103 Tests, 295 ODIs and 58 T20Is for West Indies so far since making his international debut in 1999. The southpaw has registered two half-centuries in five innings so far in the 2019 World Cup so far with a highest score of 87 against New Zealand.
Gayle and Windies will be in action on Thursday when they take on India at Old Trafford in Manchester.