India are without their regular skipper Virat Kohli but have still played like champions. The Rohit Sharma-led side have won all their three games, including one against Pakistan which they won by eight wickets. The former Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal feels it's because India have adopted to the conditions better, even more than Pakistan.
“With Hardik Pandya being injured, Ravindra Jadeja came in against Bangladesh and look how well he adapted," Ajmal told Hindustan Times. "The all-rounder starts off with 4 wickets in the game. This is what makes you sit up and take note. If you notice, India haven’t looked to play attacking cricket with bat in hand. They have waited to launch an onslaught and have kept wickets in hand. The openers have given the team a good start in all the games. Rohit has been top-class both with bat and as captain. And now you have an MS Dhoni who looked in good form against Bangladesh.
“If you come to the bowling attack, you have Jasprit Bumrah who has been exceptional. Then you have someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bhuvneshwar can bowl with both the new and old ball. Thanks to these two India’s death bowling has become strong. The spinners have also done an excellent job except for Yuzvendra Chahal.”
Ajmal acknowledged that the Indian team have more experience compared to Pakistan. “They have the experience and if you look at the Pakistan team, you only have a Shoaib Malik who is a senior pro. India on the other hand have 4/5 players who have been in the team for a while now. Yes, Pakistan might have beaten India in the final of the Champions Trophy, but that doesn’t take away the fact that India have experience on their side."
The two sides have had some memorable matches in the past, but in the last few years, it's largely been India who have dominated the rivalry. What worries Ajmal is the way Pakistan lost to India in the group stage. The 40-year-old has urged Pakistan's batsmen to bat with more responsibility and give their bowlers enough runs to play with.
“I have just one message for them and that is for them to play positively," he said. "They shouldn’t think too far ahead and when you have some quality bowlers in your ranks, you just need to stay positive and look to have the right attitude. In the last game, India won one sided and when the team does that minus Virat Kohli, that is unacceptable. A good contest is what is expected, after that if you lose well bad luck.
“Losing with dignity is one thing and getting thrashed is another. I feel that Pakistan have a better bowling attack than India’s and it is the batting which let the team down in the last game. If the batsmen can give the bowlers something to play with, things can change. You have to realise that India have the batting to score 300. On the other hand, the Pakistan attack is one which can keep them under check. But, even then, the batsmen have to put at least 250 on the board if they bat first.”
Ajmal, who picked up 184 wickets in 113 One-Day Internationals, was also not happy with the fact that Pakistan are only going with one frontline spinner compared to India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have reaped fruits for playing two-three tweakers.
“I had a good record on these wickets and I feel over here you need to add a lot of variation to your bowling," Ajmal added. "If you keep bowling at the same pace on these wickets, you are bound to be taken to the cleaners. The team needs to have more than 1 spinner. If you look at both India and Afghanistan, they are playing 3 spinners each and I feel that is what the track and conditions demand. Pakistan must also go the same direction. No team is winning with fast bowlers here, all are winning because of their spinners. Look at even Afghanistan and you will see what I am trying to say.
“I am a bit surpised to see that Pakistan is failing to find the right combination. We have played so many matches here in Dubai and we should be aware of what the conditions are and what is expected when it comes to team selection. You have to admit that the conditions in the UAE suit the spin bowlers."
So what does Pakistan have to do to defeat India?
“If you ask me, I would say Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan should be playing together as spin is the way to go. Secondly, the bowlers need the support of the batsmen and Pakistan must score 250 plus as all the teams have managed to do that when it comes to winning games. In this case, they must also remember that India chase really well and if they cannot put at least 250 on the board, the Pakistan bowlers will not have much to do. They should fight till the end and make this a contest that shall be remembered for ages," Ajmal concluded.
First Published: September 23, 2018, 12:00 PM IST