So we are just 10 days from the cricket carnival in the Carribean. The teams have landed (alongwith the commandoes guarding them) , the controversies (quite inevitably) have started and finally, one is beginning to hear the buzz associated with the World Cup. Never mind the fact that one channel here in India went overboard saying something to the effect that 'the whole world is waiting with bated breath for the 13th of March' :)).. as if Germany, Japan and Brazil cared..
Ironically, the Indian team selection was bit of a foregone conclusion as compared to in the past where reams of newsprint would be spent discussing each individual's chances. With most players picking themselves, and the series victories against the Windies and Lankans adding that much-added spark to the pre-world cup build up, the selectors really didnt have much to think about. While the assembled squad is probably the best they could have picked, a glance down the names reveals glaring deficiencies in two vital aspects of one-day cricket: fielding, of course (as most have pointed out) but also in middle-overs maneuvering..
India's likely starting XI would read: Ganguly, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, Yuvraj, Karthik/Uttappa, Dhoni, Agarkar, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Munaf. Of these, only Yuvraj and Karthik can claim to be world-class in the inner ring while Sachin and Agarkar are quick in the outfield.. None of the others has ever been accussed of greatness in the field, in fact, a couple actually need a place where the ball doesnt bother coming.... which is a worrying thought, because this means that we would be conceeding atleast 15-20 runs in every innings just on account of untidy fielding.. This puts much more pressure on the top seven (including Dhoni) to deliver whatever is asked of them. With due respect to Zaheer's and Agarkar's recent good form as well as the fact that Kumble n Bhajji would be useful on those tracks , it is the batsman who carry our hopes. And, to be fair, that is a very good lineup. If only Sehwag can consistently fire, then we would get that confidence of 16 successive run-chases back. But a word of concern here: we still do not have the player who deftly puts away each ball in the middle-overs for a single, and runs hard to convert those ones to twos. Sachin, of course, is capable of both those but incase he goes to open, we would have Sehwag, Dravid, Yuvraj in the middle order. All these magnificent batsman are not of the Azhar/Jadeja class when it comes to making those middle overs count. Which is partly why we struggle after a good start quite often (and against dibbly-dobblers bowling at 110-120kmph or against spinners like Gayle n Samuels who simply fire the ball in the batsman's legs, again, at around 110kmph !!!.. We certainly need to get that act straight or we might lose the plot somewhere between overs 20 and 35..
All said and done, while this is not the Class of 1983 and 1985 (or even the Class of 2003) , this is the best team they could have picked (though Raina and Powar might consider themselves unlucky). So all the Very Best to the Men in Blue !!!!!!