Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dissecting the World Cup probables...

Vengsarkar, the Chairman of selectors announced the 30 probables for India's cricket World Cup campaign (Feb-Mar 2007).

The probables are:
Rahul Dravid (capt), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Suresh Raina, Ramesh Powar, Anil Kumble, Rudra Pratap Singh, Dinesh Mongia, VRV Singh, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Sourav Ganguly, Parthiv Patel, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, S. Badrinath, Ishant Sharma, Rajesh Pawar, Joginder Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara.

This list is not a million miles away from one I had suggested early yesterday on this blog. The two outside choices that I'd alluded to -- Robin Uthappa and Joginder Sharma -- are both in. By the way, another reason for my penchant for Uthappa is that he keeps wickets. He was an India U-19 wicketkeeper not long ago and in that sense, is in the 'Dravid mould'. So, if Karthik does not make the final cut, Uthappa can don the gloves in case of an injury to Dhoni...

Joginder Sharma did not set the world on fire against Bangladesh in his debut series. It was a series in which India lost an ODI to Bangladesh! However, times have changed and he is a changed cricketer. I have a feeling he will come good. He occupies the all-rounder's spot if Irfan Pathan does not manage to get it all together.

The list of probables can be broken into three categories of 10 players in each: CERTAIN, NO-WAY and MAYBE

Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, S. Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Zaheer Khan.

MAYBE (10):
Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Joginder Sharma, Ramesh Powar, Dinesh Karthik, Munaf Patel, VRV Singh, Gautam Gambhir.

NO-WAY (10):
Mohammad Kaif, Anil Kumble, Dinesh Mongia, Parthiv Patel, VVS Laxman, Rohit Sharma, S. Badrinath, Ishant Sharma, Rajesh Pawar, Cheteshwar Pujara.

Arguably, guys like Kumble, VVS, Kaif and Mongia could make it to the "MAYBE" list. However, I do not think that that would happen. At least, I do not wish that to happen! Mongia has fluffed many an opportunity. Kaif has rarely grabbed any of the many opportunities he has been given. He can cringe about the revolving-door-policy that he has endured (and he has whined about it lately). However, there were many opportunities for him to stand up and be counted. He has fluffed them all and to me, doesn't look like a cricketer who wants to put his hand up when there is a fight going on. Similarly VVS. He is just not suited to the one-day caper. He can take his dodgy knee with him, settle himself on a couch and watch the proceedings from there instead of watching it from 1st slip, which is really the only place he prefers to be on a cricket field these days!

Party Patel Rohit Sharma, Badrinath, Ishant, Rajesh Pawar and Pujara are, one feels, just making up the numbers at this stage. So, in that sense, my "CERTAIN" and "MAYBE" self-select themselves by a process of elimination!

The trick is to then select 5 from the MAYBE list so that the final list has balance and strength: Balance in terms of experience, age, batting-bowling and agility; Strength in terms of capability, match-winning-ability, cool-headedness, maturity etc.

The 10 in my "CERTAIN" list includes 5 bowlers, 4 bats and 1 'keeper.

Yuvraj Singh has to go if he is fit.

My view is that this is a wake-up call for Sehwag and Pathan. They just have to work hard on their game and come back into the frame. They have to get hungry for success once again. I like the mean-edge to the selection. I also like the fact that, through the re-selections of Ganguly and Zaheer Khan, the selection committee has signalled strongly that "dropped does not mean dropped forever". Time is not on the side of Sehwag and Pathan. Unfortunately for them, nor are there any first class matches for either of them. But they just have to put in the hard yards and use their dropping as a spur to come back hungrier than ever.

Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik will fight it out in the first few games of the trial games against West Indies. I have a feeling that Raina will edge Karthik out...

The last place should, I feel, go to Joginder Sharma.

So the likely final XV could be:
Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, S. Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Joginder Sharma.

Not a bad effort, in my view...


  1. Mahesh5:42 pm

    Hmmm...No place for Munaf in your team?

    If you were forced to pick two out of RP, Munna Bhai and Jogi, who would you pick? Still go with your original two?? I think you should reconsider....

  2. Mahesh12:27 pm

    Continuing on my earlier comment, one thing to consider is that although Munna Bhai is a better bowler, the things that can act against his choice are - (a)his fielding - have you ever seen him chase (sorry, escort) a ball to the boundary? Very entertaining; (b)his batting; and (c)his injury - he may not have enough time to stake his claim in the team...

  3. Sanjay Subrahmanyan10:43 pm

    Uthappa is not a CERTAIN as yet. Whereas Kumble is a 'Certain'. My Certain list would be Dravid, Sachin, Sourav, Dhoni, Yuvraj (He will be fit), Harbhajan, Sreesanth, Zaheer, Kumble. Sehwag will make this list soon I think.

  4. Anonymous11:22 pm

    Vish said:

    Very good analysis Mohan. I would have picked the same final 15 provisionally except I would have switched Munaf for RP. But having said that, the final 15 would be based on the next 8 games.

    My sure starters include:

    1.Sachin Tendulkar
    3.Rahul Dravid
    6.Mahendra Singh Dhoni
    9.Harbhajan Singh
    10.Sree Sreesanth
    11.Zaheer Khan

    (if Yuvraj is not fit, Ganguly will replace him and play at No. 3 and Dravid at No. 4)

    That leaves us with the following to choose for the squad of 15:
    2 Openers
    2 All rounders
    3 Middle order batters
    2 Pacers

    The openers
    This will be easy to pick as only Sehwag and are Uthappa are in the reckoning and both will be picked in the 15.
    I have a feeling, both will play at least 5 games over the 2 series and unless they have a miserable series which I seriously doubt on home conditions, both will be in the team and I won't be surprised if both get into the playing 11. Sehwag in addition, has been bowling decently and has upped his fielding a notch. He should be tried for a few games at No.6 and see how he goes.

    The all rounders - India's real weakness
    IK Pathan - Pathan did OK in the two recent Ranjis, but nothing noteworthy. Bowled lot of overs (nearly 70) for seven or eight wickets with not too many 'bowleds' or 'LBWs' which tells me he is not fully back yet as a frontline bowler. My opinion is that he is effective as a wicket taker only as a opening bowler and not first or second change. With not much swing expected after the first 12 overs, he is likely to bleed runs for the reminder of the powerplay where he will be expected to bowl 4 overs as first change. Batting and a good arm from the deep are things that work in his favour apart from the experience of playing over 70 games. I think he has a chance to make it to the final 11. Hope he takes some early wickets in every match he plays between now and the world cup. A couple of match winning cameos won't hurt either.

    Joginder Sharma - I like him. He is a no-nonsense cricketer who likes to keep it simple. Has had a great 2006-07 season and had a reasonable last season. Wicket taker and a good lower order batsman suited for One-dayers. Weakness is lack of exposure at this level. If I was an Indian selector, I would urge Dravid and Chappell to give him at least six games. The next eight games are crucial for him and India.

    I will play them at Nos 7 and 8 to add some steel to the tail.

    The middlemen
    Question is do we need grafters or stroke makers. I think, enough with grafters (besides they are not generally great finishers and I am pleased that Kaif and Mongia are not in the WI series squad. Kaif should concentrate on the longer version of the game and compete with players like Badrinath to get into the test squad in the future. Mongia plays a waiting game - His story is 12 ball faced, 9 dot balls, 2 singles and 1 six. This can sometimes work against weaker oppositions but not consistently against stronger opponents....And then his body language. It is as aggressive as Mother Theresa.

    I therefore pick Yuvraj, Karthik as first choice. Both have good body language and can impose themselves on the opposition. Karthik's three innings in SA (including the twenty20 game) and his not so bad fielding in the circle makes his selection easy for me. Karthik in addition can cover for Dhoni. He should be in the squad of 15 for sure and should replace Sehwag if he is not in the 11. Raina also makes the cut but only because of a weak bench.

    The Pacers
    My no 1 choice will be Ajit Agarkar. His experience and better fielding and batting puts him marginally ahead of RP Singh. Munaf seems to have a better control over RP and therefore he squeezes through. He has enough time to get fit and he should go even if doesn’t get to play much.

    Agarkar and Munaf will be in the squad of 15, but will find it tough to get into the 11 if Pathan and Joginder do a half-decent job.

    My first eleven and fifteen based on skill (include fielding) , fitness, experience, and attitude is:
    1.Sachin Tendulkar
    2.Robin Uthappa
    3.Rahul Dravid
    4.Yuvraj Singh (Ganguly if Yuvi is not fit)
    5.Viru Sehwag
    6.Mahendra Singh Dhoni
    7.Irfan Pathan
    8.Joginder Sharma
    9.Harbhajan Singh
    10.Sree Sreesanth
    11.Zaheer Khan


  5. What? No Ganguly in your team Kanna? Unless he retires in the next 20 days, I think he is a dead-cert after his showing in RSA. Sad, but true. Unfortunately, I think Karthik will lose out to him in your XV. I'd love to see Munaf in the team too. He bowls at pace, bowls accurately and swings the ball both ways. However, he is a liability in the field and is prone to breaking down. I also don't think the Board will forgive him so quickly for hiding his injury in the last Teat against RSA.

    Sanjay, I take your point about Uthappa not being a "CERTAIN". It is more my wish than anything else. Moreover, it was my desire for solution-neatness! It was nice to have 10 players in each bucket! :-)

    I do hope Kumble doesn't go... Two frontline spinners in the team is (at least) one too many in my view! Moreover Kumble's fielding makes Phil Tufnell look like a fielding coach. And his running between wickets would make VVS look good!

  6. Anonymous7:06 pm

    Vish: said...
    Indian selectors will have to bow down to the effigy burners and the knowledgeable parliamentarians and will surely pick him.

    Let’s see what he has to offer. Well, he is not the captain, he has a powerful arm (from covers that is!!) and he is no hare between the wickets. The only slot he can play is in the top 3. Yuvi is a better fielder, runner-between-wickets and his bowling is no better or worse than Ganguly. From a one-day perspective Yuvi is better than Ganguly. It will be the other way around for Tests.

    I am sure Sehwag will be back for the world cup and unfortunately the chop will be on Uthappa. I’d love to see Uthappa and Sehwag doing a great job before the world cup. What happens then Mo?

    I hope the selectors don't do anything funny and wait for a chance to drop uthappa!

  7. Here is my list of 15 who should go:

    1.Sachin Tendulkar
    2.Robin Uthappa
    3.Rahul Dravid (Capt.)
    4.Yuvraj Singh
    5.Suresh Raina
    6.Mahendra Singh Dhoni
    7.Irfan Pathan
    8.Ajit Agarkar
    9.Harbhajan Singh
    10.Sree Sreesanth
    11.Zaheer Khan

    12.Joginder Sharma
    13.Rudra Pratap Singh
    14.Munaf Patel
    15.Dinesh Karthik

    It would take guts to drop Sehwag and Ganguly. I think it must be done.