Friday, January 12, 2007

India Team for the World Cup

The Times of India adopted an interesting approach to selecting probables for India's upcoming ODI matches against West Indies, Sri Lanka and then, the big one... The World Cup. It categorised players into "Certainties", "Up for a Fight", "Comeback", "Under Pressure", "Unlikely" and "Injured".

Apart from the fact that they omitted Yuvraj Singh from a place in any of their buckets, I am not sure that their categorisation, although useful, is spot on. I'd like to adopt this approach and instead, categorise players into:

CERTAINTIES (7):
Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni (wk), Zaheer Khan, S. Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh

GOOD CASE EXISTS (6):
Dinesh Karthik (wk), Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, R. P. Singh, V. R. V. Singh

RISKY -- either due to injury or form or both (9):
Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Suresh Raina, Mohammed Kaif, Ramesh Powar, Munaf Patel, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, VVS Laxman

OUTSIDE CHANCE (8):
Wasim Jaffer, S. Badrinath, Joginder Sharma, G. Gambhir, A. Nehra, J. P. Yadav, R. S. Sodhi, Venugopal Rao

I have gone for 30 probables here. I'd be rather surprised if the 30 probables chosen by Vengsarkar and his co-selectors will be too different to the above list.

I think the 7 "certainties" will go.

Of the 6 "good case exists", I don't think Karthik should go, despite his good showing in the 3rd Test of the recently concluded Test Series against South Africa. If Karthik does go, it will be as a batsman.

I don't think Kumble should go either, again, despite his good showing in the ODIs against South Africa. Harbhajan bowled well in the ODIs in West Indies last year (2005) and should do well there.

Ganguly has done enough to be on the plane, perhaps as opener, along with Tendulkar.

Uthappa is firing on all cylinders and must have a shoe in. He is the highest scorer in the Ranjis this season and he couldn't have timed his 109-ball 108 against Saurashtra any better! Greg Chappell, all the selectors and Dravid (his Karnataka team-mate) are all there in Rajkot to select the 30 World Cup probables.

Only one of R.P. Singh or V.R.V. Singh will go I feel. Taking both of them will be a bit of an over-kill in terms of 'cover'. I think R. P. Singh would have his nose in front slightly in the short form of the game.

A dark horse, however, is Joginder Sharma. He has had an impressive Ranji season and is the leading wicket taker in India this year. He is a nippy pace bowler. He is also an impressive bat and a good fielder. He could well make the cut instead of R. P. Singh. People are already talking him up as India's long-awaited answer to Kapil Dev (it also helps that Joginder Sharma plays for Haryana!).

A totally dark horse is Ishant Sharma, the young delhi tear-away. But it is perhaps early days for him -- he is in only his first season of first-class cricket!

So, that leaves 7 "certainties" and 3 "good case exists" (4 if we add Karthik).

That leaves the "risky" people... If Yuvraj Singh proves his fitness, he must get in. He is an important player that can hold the middle innings together. Irfan Pathan, similarly, is an important player who must go. The decision to send him back to India from South Africa may just have been a terrific one. He seems to have re-discovered his bowling mojo.

Dinesh Mongia and Mohammed Kaif have thrown many an opportunity, one feels. I think Ramesh Powar will be a liability in the West Indies.

Calls for VVS Laxman to make a comeback into the ODI team have been almost as strident as those for Ganguly's return. Since his showing in the Test matches in South Africa and considering his possible inclusion in the context of a string of poor shows from the young-brigade (the likes of Raina, Kaif, et al) the constant VVS-related cacophony in the Indian media is perhaps understandable. However, Laxman is a liability in the field and his running between wickets is just slightly better than a duck on a twaddle in the park! Already, the team will be trying to hide Ganguly (and possibly Munaf) in the field. Laxman should be left behind and told that his career as a ODI player for India is over.

That leaves Suresh Raina, Munaf Patel and Virender Sehwag.

If Munaf is fit, he should go. I say this despite his woeful fielding. He is an accurate bowler and could be a handy player in the West Indies. I know that this selection is a tad illogical in the context of the previous paragraph, wherein I suggested the axing of Laxman because of his fielding inadequacies. The difference here is that the bowling cupboard does not look all that well-stocked. It is my submission that there is an adequate stock of capable batsmen in India. If Munaf goes, one just needs to hide him (too) in the field. Sigh!

It would then be a battle between Sehwag and Raina! Sehwag should go, if nothing for the sheer number of games he has won for India. He needs to re-discover his scoring touch and could be a match winner for India once again. His experience will be valuable. So also his bowling.

So the 14 for the 8 lead-up games and the World Cup would be:

BATSMEN (2):
Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa
BOWLERS (6): Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh, Munaf Patel
ALL-ROUND(6): Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni (wk), Virendar Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan

This leaves one last spot (the 15th spot). This could go to either Dinesh Karthik, Anil Kumble or Suresh Raina. I’d go with Suresh Raina to bolster the fielding. Raina could also be the cover for Sehwag and Uthappa in the batting department.

EXTRA (1): Suresh Raina / Anil Kumble / Dinesh Karthik

The likely XI could be:
1. Sachin Tendulkar
2. Sourav Ganguly
3. Irfan Pathan
4. Virender Sehwag / R. Uthappa / S. Raina
5. Rahul Dravid
6. Yuvraj Singh
7. MS Dhoni (wk)
8. Harbhajan Singh
9. Ajit Agarkar / R. P. Singh / Munaf Patel
10. Zaheer Khan
11. S. Sreesanth

Dark Horse - 1: Joginder Sharma for R. P. Singh or Munaf Patel

Dark Horse - 2: Dinesh Karthik for S. Raina

2 comments:

  1. I agree with most all your selections with the exception of Ganguly. Munaf Patel and Raina should be included. Ganguly and Sehwag should be dropped.

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  2. Mahesh12:08 am

    I think India have to do something radical to get out of the ODI rut. Here is my team -

    Open with Dhoni and Tendulkar. I would have liked to have opened with Dhoni and Ganguly, but Tendulkar will never agree to it and there is no point debating about this.

    Ganguly at one drop - Like it or not, Dada is back. At the fall of an early wicket, Ganguly can come and hit a few balls over the head while power-play (whoever came up with that name?) still exists.

    Dravid the wall at number 4. I think this should depend on the game situation. If the first two wickets have fallen within the first 15 overs, I think he should come in at No. 4. Otherwise, he should bat down the order.

    Sehwag should be back in the team and he should come in at No. 5.

    If Yuvraj is fit, then he would naturally take the No. 6 spot. If he is still not fit, someone from my list for No.7 would take up his spot.

    No. 7 would be taken up either by Uthappa, Kaif, Raina or Dinesh Mongia . My top choices would be Uthappa and Raina. If Yuvi does not recover from his injury, I think Dinesh Mongia should go and if he goes, he should also bowl a few overs. Although he hasn't done much in the recent past for India, I think he has potential.

    Although I like Kaif and he is a great fielder, he will just have to miss out...

    India need Pathan to come in at No.8 . I hope he finds his Swing and rhythm, as he cannot find a place in the team on his batting skills alone (which is good, but overrated)

    Agarkar, Zaheer and Shreesanth at numbers 9, 10 and 11.

    So my starting XI is
    1. Tendulkar
    2. Dhoni
    3. Ganguly
    4. Dravid
    5. Sehwag
    6. Yuvraj
    7. Uthappa
    8. Pathan
    9. Agarkar
    10. Zaheer Khan
    11. Sreesanth


    What no spinner? Obviously, the 11 players listed are not going to play each and every game - Bhajji should go and he will definitely get a chance. Yuvi, Veeru and Sachin would chip in with a few overs.

    I haven't seen Joginder Sharma play and I am not too thrilled with his choice. I don't think he is going to set the game on fire - When he played against Bangladesh a couple of years ago, he didn't make a big impact. I hope I am wrong and he turns out OK, but we need to get him to play in the WI one dayers first.

    I am also not convinced with the fast bowling of the two Singhs - VRV and RP; I agree with you Mohan - Munaf should get a nod ahead of these two. But if we need to pick yet another bowler to make up the numbers, I would pick RP - he bowled well (in patches) in Malaysia. However, I feel that Ramesh Powar may get the nod ahead of RP Singh mainly because he is from Bombay.

    If I were a selector, I would pick another batsman to go on the tour and my choice would be Dinesh Mongia.I know, no one will agree with me on this one - but hey, its my choice :)


    The following make up my 15 -
    12. Bajji
    13. Munaf Patel
    14. Raina
    15. Dinesh Mongia.

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