Indians, Dutch seek change when they meet in Kotla

Change was the buzzword that rent the air at the Ferozshah Kotla ground here today on the eve of India’s Group B league contest against the Netherlands in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.

To begin with, Team India – which started with changing its training schedule to late afternoon – is hoping for an easy game in a change from the series of tight matches it was engaged in by England and Ireland while the Netherlands is looking to alter the run of huge defeats by the West Indies and South Africa and come across as more competitive.

The biggest change within Team India could be the return of left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra to fitness and the XI ahead of leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, who had forgettable outings against the two sides from the United Kingdom. With the game being played on the same track as the Canada-Kenya contest, India will return to the three seamers-one spinner bowling combination.

“The bowling department is showing signs of improvement. Ashish (Nehra) is coming back from an injury and we are trying to see whether the 3-1 combination or the 2-2 is ideal. Hopefully, we will have the best attack by the end of the league stage,” skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said, firmly indicating that the team would vigorously seek the right combination.

Of course, even if Dhoni would not be drawn into a debate about Harbhajan Singh’s poor returns from the first three games, the team will be backing the off-spinner to change his line of attack and come good. With R Ashwin waiting in the wings for a chance, the most experienced bowler in the Indian attack is under some pressure.

As for batting, it is unlikely that there will be any change in the top four, what with Dhoni conceding that Virat Kohli needed to bat either at No. 3 or No. 4 to maximise his potential. Of course, Dhoni also indicated that he would like Yusuf Pathan to get a longer stint in the middle as the team fine-tunes itself for the knockout stages.

If there was something that bucked the ‘change’ trend today, it was Dhoni’s acceptance yet again that the Indian fielding would not undergo any transformation, more so with the infusion of Suresh Raina in the XI being virtually ruled out. “A lot has been talked about our fielding and I don’t see a drastic improvement in our fielding,” he said.

As for the Netherlands, it is clearly looking to overcome the disappointing defeats by huge margins at the hands of the West Indies and South Africa. For that to happen, it will need its star batsman Ryan ten Doeschate to return to the kind of form that saw him dominate the England attack in Nagpur where he made a most impressive century.

The Dutch captain Peter Borren spoke about the team turning up a brave show against the home side but it is possible that the Netherlands can find the atmosphere quite electric. Undoubtedly, the presence of Delhi’s own Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli – and perhaps Nehra as well – will add extra zing to the fans thronging the ground tomorrow.

The Dutch, who have not played India in a World Cup game here, admitted that there was a sort tension in the ranks. They are really not used to such an atmosphere – they were surprised at the large media turnout at the pre-match briefing – but have indicated that they would love the challenge of taking on India at home.

And yes, it will not be out of place to mention that while the Indian and the Dutch teams continue their journey in the World Cup, this game will end Ferozshah Kotla’s tryst with the world’s biggest tournament. As if in unadulterated celebration, the terraces in the ground will shed the somnambulist countenance that was a constant in the three matches it has hosted so far.

Yes, indeed, change is in the air.