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BISHAN SINGH BEDI

Mr Bedi is a former cricketer.

India should be too strong for Pakistan

he distance between India and the World Cup is only two victories. After the incredible performance against Australia on Thursday, Dhoni's men look so charged up they can take on the world. They outsmarted the Aussies in three departments: batting, fielding and bowling.

It was not easy to chase 261 on a crumbling wicket under the lights in Ahmedabad and beat the current world champions. In fact at one point, when Dhoni got out, it seemed almost impossible. However, all thanks to Yuvraj and Suresh Raina for holding their nerve and guaranteeing a clean victory for the team.

I have full confidence in the Indian team and in their ability to win against Pakistan in the semifinal next Wednesday. India is in a better position than Pakistan in all respects. Nevertheless, we needs to be cautious as Pakistan is going to play tough. There is no alternative for the Indian team but to deliver another power-packed performance to assure a much desired victory against Pakistan. There will be no room for error on Wednesday.

Dhoni's men need to remember that this is our best chance to beat Pakistan. India has the advantage of playing on home turf in Mohali, and this is also a ground known to support strokeplayers. 'Win the toss and bat first' should be the mantra. A strong batting lineup is the need of the hour; for which there need to be alterations in the XI. But I'm afraid Dhoni doesn't seem to think so.

hrough a closer look, we can still locate the cracks in the Indian team. Batting remains a matter of concern; apart from Tendulkar and Yuvraj none of the other batsmen are scoring big runs. The top middle order has to click against Pakistan. Next, the Indians fielded well against Australia and must continue the good work against Pakistan. They need to be sharp and agile on the field. Also, as seen by our experience against the Aussies, India's running between wickets must improve. That was complete hara-kiri by Gautam Gambhir on Thursday against Australia, and we must work towards minimising such incidents.

Next, Dhoni's ceaseless out-of-form phase might cost India heavily. He struggled to keep the ball down and play in a straight bat against Australia in the quarter final. It is evident that captaincy is taking a toll on him. He needs to relax and concentrate on playing the ball down the wicket. As the captain of the team, he needs to lead from the front. Also, India needs him to play well against Pakistan as he is a pillar when it comes to the middle order.

However, with much pleasure I must say that Yuvraj Singh is in splendid form. His batting is superb and he is bowling beautifully. It is no exaggeration to say that he is playing the tournament of his life. For that matter, Suresh Raina's performance is also praiseworthy; he batted very sensibly against the Aussies. Since Raina has proved his worth as a dependable batsman in the lower middle order. Dhoni should play him against Pakistan and not the unpredictable Yusuf Pathan.

Finally, the bowling has to improve. I don't see Dhoni getting a third pacer in the team though there is the need for one. Since Pakistanis are good players of spin, we need pacers for Wednesday. Zaheer Khan is in fine form but he needs support from somebody equally competent. In that light, Munaf looks lazy and ordinary; his bowling lack aggression. Similarly, Harbhajan has to improve his bowling. Time and again, I have pointed out that more than bowling dot balls to contain batsmen, he should concentrate on picking wickets.

 
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