15 Indians : Billion Wishes : One Mission

February 1, 2011 Off By Raghav Arora

World Cup winning K Srikkanth headed one of the most important Selection Committee meetings to select the team for next month’s World Cup in Indian subcontinent. They have picked up 6 Batsmen, 1 Wicketkeeper / Batsman / Captain, 7 Bowlers & 1 All Rounder. On the face of it selectors seems to have done a fair job and this team looks to be a balanced side which can achieve the target of winning the World Cup for India after 28 long years.

This seems to be a balanced side in a sense that it has the experience in Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Sehwag, Zaheer & Harbhajan. Indian also has youth and exuberance in Kohli, Raina, Gambhir, Ashwin, Praveen, Pathan. And to complete the picture we have Nehra, Munaf Patel, and Chawla; the last name in this list being the most contentious selection.

13 players pick themselves up in the team based on their current form and past records. Only two debatable places went both to the bowlers with Selection panel and Team management opting for Ashwin as back up for Harbhajan & variety in bowling with Chawla as leg spin option. Some people might feel that Sreesanth, Ishant & Rohit Sharma should have been in this side but then Nehra has been in great form and Munaf sealed his place with good outings against New Zealand and South Africa. Ishant has not been in good form and has not performed in the opportunities given to him; Sreesanth had a good Test series but has not been at his best in limited overs. By opting for the 3rd spinner doors were shut on Rohit Sharma and Rohit also did not put his case forward in effective way by having an indifferent series in South Africa. Some would have also argued for the need of a reserve wicketkeeper but World Cup being played in sub continent the replacement can be flown in on the morning of the match itself or a stand by can be asked to travel to match venues for any emergency situation.

The thinking behind this selection is pretty straight forward, to bat out the opposition teams as these are Indian sub continent pitches where bowlers are just canon fodder. Win the toss, bat first, score big and restrict opposition within that total. Just bat out the opposition of the match. In case the team losses the toss and bowls first than hope that its bowler produces something special and restrict the opposition within a chaseable score under lights.

In the most likely starting line up Tendulkar and Sehwag will open and Gambhir will walk out in Number 3. Yuvraj, Raina & Dhoni are likely to bat at 4, 5 and 6 and that’s where the problem of Indian team starts, Indian batting line up is top heavy. These three batsmen had not had a very good time with bat in last 12 months and that’s where India’s headache starts. If the top three fail than can these out of form batsmen take the load. These batsmen have more often than not found their rhythm in Indian conditions and that is where the World Cup is taking place so Selectors have placed their faith in these batsmen. One more positive of this selection is that these three are free of any injuries.

Virat Kohli loses out to Yuvraj and Raina because of their utility with the ball. Yuvraj has become a go-to man for Dhoni to break a partnership or stop the flow of runs. Raina has also been useful more than often with his off spins. The only thinking point for Dhoni would be the ballistic form of Virat Kohli which has taken him up to Number 2 ICC ODI Ranking for batsman. This effectively means that India has an able back up in form of Virat Kohli who can bat anywhere from Number 1 to Number 7 in the line up according to the team’s requirement. Going by the current form and his hitting prowess Yusuf Pathan is likely to bat at Number 7 followed by the bowlers.

One issue which many may point out regarding this batting line up is that India would be playing with only 5 specialist batsmen and wicketkeeper (Dhoni) and all-rounder (Pathan) will have to share the burden of batting with bowlers also expected to chip in at crucial times.

Zaheer and Harbhajan are expected to lead the bowlers in an attempt to restrict the opposition and give their batsmen a chance to win every game for them. Zaheer Khan is in peak form and is expected to be the spearhead and play the role he so well played in 2003 World Cup. Harbhajan Singh has seemed to found his form back in South Africa bowling with flight and bowling to take wickets and not just to restrict the batsman. Dhoni’s problem is to find the right kind of partners for these bowlers. Praveen Kumar has more often than not found early breakthroughs and is perfect foil for Zaheer Khan with his swing, accuracy and slower balls. Praveen’s problem has been his ineffective death bowling when the bowl stops swinging.

Ashish Nehra has been good with the New as well as old ball with his wicket taking abilities. He bowls fast and on his day has the ability to win the game for his team. His problem is his inconsistency and can leak runs in buckets if doesn’t get his line and length right. He is Dhoni’s man for Death overs and in Batting power plays and will play a pivotal role in this World Cup and for that will have to be fit and injury proof. He also has the experience and ability to lead attack if team losses Zaheer Khan due to injury.

Munaf Patel is the right choice fo Indian conditions as he is accurate and can bowl toe crushing Yorkers in death overs to restrict scoring. He has also rediscovered his wicket taking abilities and by his recent performances against New Zealand and South Africa has posed a pleasant problem for the team management in selecting the seamers. In most of the matches India will stick to 3 seamers and 1 spinner combination and will look towards Pathan, Yuvraj & Raina to fill in for the 5th bowler. Though it is very unlikely that India will play 2 frontline spinners but in case they decide to play than Ashwin can play a role by his intelligent, controlled and restrictive off spinners. Chawla is the most contentious choice in this tem but then he is arguably the 15th member of the team and can be played for matches against lesser known teams to give rest to some of the player and also may be used as a surprise element for which the chances are very less.

On papers this team looks balanced, strong and capable of fulfilling dreams of more then Billion fans. They have the support to back them up and playing such a big tournament in front of the Home crowd also brings its own pressures. This team also seems to have its own negatives. The top three batsmen are coming out of injury and have very little match practice. Tendulkar has only played 2 ODI’s after making that famous double century in early 2010. Sehwag did no play against New Zealand and also South Africa and Gambhir also missed ODI’s in South Africa. Middle order is high on stroke makers and calming effect of Dravid or a Laxman may be missed in pressure cooker situations in front of Home crowd. There are too many stroke makers in the batting line up which may lead to its downfall by playing one stroke too many.

Putting all things in perspective selectors have picked the best combination possible with getting experience, youth, and variety, this team has everything in it to put a full stop on Australian domination in the World Cup and win it in front of the Home crowd.

This is Tendulkar’s sixth straight World Cup and may be his last and lets hope that he signs off the way Glenn Mcgrath did in WC ‘07 and win it for his country with is teammates able support.

Come on India Lets Do It.

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