NEW DELHI (AP) — India will have to try out fringe bowlers Ashish Nehra and Ravichandran Ashwin at some stage during its World Cup group campaign, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said on Tuesday, hinting the match with strugglers Netherlands could be the perfect opportunity to experiment.
The co-host and pre-tournament favorite has relied on strong performances from its powerful batting lineup, and Dhoni told reporters it was still looking for its best bowling combination.
India has persisted with just four specialist bowlers in its three Group B matches so far and although Dhoni insisted those numbers wouldn't change, leftarm seamer Nehra and offspinner Ashwin could be in line for a game against the Dutch in Delhi on Wednesday.
The slow Kotla pitch is likely to suit Ashwin, especially, and Nehra is fit again after a back strain and bowled at the evening practice session following Dhoni's news conference.
"It's always good to feature all the bowlers to see what options you have got," Dhoni said. "The important thing is to win every game but definitely we will have to give them (Nehra and Ashwin) a chance, especially in the league stage before entering the knockout stage."
India's current bowlers conceded 283 to Bangladesh, 338 in a tied game against England and were not completely dominant against Ireland, and the team is running out of time to get it right before the quarterfinals.
Following Wednesday's match vs. the winless Dutch, India finishes its Group B campaign against South Africa and a resurgent West Indies.
"To peak at the right time will be important," Dhoni said. "To be at that place is one of the most important things because as soon as you reach the knockout stage that is where the problems are ... if you have a bad game you are out of the tournament."
India had improved in "every department," Dhoni said, since its tournament-opening win over fellow co-host Bangladesh on Feb. 19. But although the skipper was "not really" worried about the bowlers, they have been disappointing in periods.
"The bowlers are under pressure," he said. "A lot has been talked about our bowling department but one good thing, we are showing signs of improvement right from the very first game.
"I think we will peak at the right time and the bowlers will definitely do their job."
India has been helped, too, by the return to form of allrounder Yuvraj Singh, who claimed a five-wicket haul in the win against Ireland to relieve the pressure on the misfiring frontline bowlers.
Dhoni said Yuvraj's allround form, where he has also scored two half-centuries, was "big news" for India.
The home team will again carry massive expectations from the country's millions of fans into the game against Netherlands in India's capital city, with followers demanding a crushing win to reconfirm the home team's title credentials.
"Not thinking about the expectation is one good thing," Dhoni told the packed news conference. "You can distract yourself ... what is important is to again think about the process. You want to make the most out of that particular game, especially in the departments where you want to see most improvement."
As India deals with the ever-present pressure, its opposition was adjusting to the biggest buildup it has ever had for a game. The Dutch team has been thrust into the media spotlight because of its meeting with the world's most followed cricket team.
"We've never seen this much press at a press conference or this much interest leading up to a game," Netherlands batsman Ryan ten Doeschate told the ranks of TV cameras and reporters. "We've also been led to believe that tomorrow ... the stadium's going to be packed. Tomorrow's going to be a pretty unique experience for us."
Dutch captain Peter Borren added his players weren't used to such interest but aimed to play "brave cricket" against their much-stronger opponents.
"Obviously it's a big challenge," Borren said, "and it's a difficult match playing these guys in their own conditions but we're going to go out there and try and cause a surprise."