No Surprise in World Cup Squad
CHENNAI: The selection meeting in Mumbai didn’t spring surprises. The World Cup squad was picked along predicted lines and the absence of a reserve batsman was the only unexpected decision. But then, the selectors probably wanted to strengthen the bowling, with back-ups for almost everyone.
While batting continues to be India’s strength, attack remains a concern. The lack of penetration in conditions the team thought would help bowlers was evident in the Test series and barring reinforcements in spin, this department remains more or less the same.
“Our fast bowlers have shown a tendency to drop it short so far. This length should become fuller. The task will be tougher with five fielders inside the ring, which means either third-man or fine-leg will be sacrificed. I would have taken another fast bowler, but those chosen can do the job. One-dayers are a different game and they must make full use of the short series coming up. Ishant (Sharma) and Umesh (Yadav) should make their experience of playing in Australia count,” former pacer Subroto Banerjee said.
Before leaving for the long trip, the team was excited with the average speed of the pacers. Barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar, all were capable of clocking 140-plus. That counted for little in absence of control, movement and a general inability to keep probing when the chips are down. The direction fluctuated too often and rarely did the batsmen come under sustained pressure. They topped 500 in the first three Tests at a more than healthy rate with none of the Indians returning a five-wicket haul. All of them went at over three per over.
Banerjee, a part of India’s 1992 World Cup journey Down Under and former coach of Umesh and Varun Aaron in their domestic teams, recommended specific practice. “All bowlers will suffer because of the field restrictions. What we can do over the next 10 days or so is practise what will be required in one-dayers. Be it yorkers or slower ones, they should strive for control in whatever they are comfortable. It will also be about variations and each of them should identify own areas and work on those. Their fitness will be crucial and the team must pay attention to it,” added Banerjee, who worked in Sydney for a period, during which Sachin Tendulkar invited him to bowl at the nets, before the 2008 tri-series final.
The spin wing looks better equipped. Despite lacking bite in Test matches abroad, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are a differently efficient pair in limited overs. Even Axar Patel has impressed in few opportunities. Before the selection meeting, former spinner Maninder Singh was in favour of these three. “Ashwin has looked different with his altered line around off stump. Jadeja is a good restrictive bowler and Patel is a smart kid, always trying to outthink the batsman,” he had said.
Whether and how to use two of them could provide food for thought over the next few days. Yuvraj Singh’s batting is revered. What he did as bowler is what the team might miss as they seek the balance that would determine their destiny in the quadrennial carnival.
MS Dhoni (capt & wk)
In a format that Dhoni has conquered great highs, he is one of the best finishers in world cricket. Can score runs without taking any risks and has the ability to control the game’s pace. He has the tremendous game to exlode at the death.
The left-hander will be India’s first choice opener and he will be given a free license to go behersk at the top. Not as consistent as Virender Sehwag, Dhawan can run away with the match if he can stay for somewhere close to 30 overs.
He might not be flamboyant like the rest, but can still score at run a ball playing excuiste shots. He might take some time to settle in the middle if he comes down the order, but can be delightful once set. Rahane can also double up as an opener.
The left-hander will be India’s X-factor. Alongside Dhoni, Raina is the best finisher India has in the squad and can be extremely devastating coming lower down the order. More than anything, he provides the team the much needed energy and life in the field.
You never know which Rohit turns up, but if he is on song, there are few better sights in the world. Comfortable against pace and spin, Rohit should enjoy the conditions where the ball comes on to bat and can also play in the middle-order.
The off-spinner might have struggled in away Tests, but in ODIs he is still a very economical bowler. Dhoni can also use him in the powerplays if needed and can also go on the attack if he has enough runs to bowl at. His strike-rate could turn crucial for India.
The vice-captain will be India’s go to man in the batting department. If India fancy chances of defending the crown, Kohli will be the trendsetter and can score runs heavily at the top. He will expected to set the tempo for the side and is very handy while chasing.
The leader of the pace attack, Ishant has plenty of experience and the time has come for him to step up. He is carrying a knee injury, but if he recovers in time, he will enjoy the Australaian conditions that assists his bounce.
The southpaw might not be an out and out batsman or bowler, but he will relish the format. His left-arm spin can keep things tidy in the middle and is a livewire in the field. Batting low in the order, he can provide fireworks.
Has been picked mainly for the pace he brings to the side. Bowling in late 140kmph and early 150kmph, Yadav will get India the wickets and can also generate bounce. Will be lethal with the ball if he finds his rhythm and pace.
India’s best new-ball bowler, Bhuvneshwar is a old-fashioned swing bowler. Operating in the mid 130kmph, Bhuvneshwar can swing the white kookabura both ways and can trouble any batsmen in the world. Not good at the death.
Has been picked in the side as he is the pace-bowling all-rounder. Though he is bowls only in 120s Binny can swing the ball if he pitches up and has plenty of variations. With the bat, he can be aggressive and will be an asset to the side.
Has cemented his place off-late by has to be seen if he will find a place in the playing XI. A middle-order batsman Rayudu can accomadate runs by rotating the strike and is a busy player all around the wicket. He is also India’s back-up wicketkeeper.
Arguably India’s best bowler at the death, Shami can bowl yorkers at will. Though he is quite expensive at the top, his ability to get wickets will provide Dhoni a reason of hope. Time and again he has the habit of drifting the ball down the leg-side.
He is no means a genuine all-rounder. But like Jadeja, he is a bits and pieces player. Can consistently dart the ball around the off-stump and can bowl flat to check the scoring rate. With the bat, he is not that explosive, but still a handy one.