After winning two games of the 4-game series, India appear to be on a track that spells confidence. Captain, Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell have insisted that it is more about process and less about outcomes. And that's exactly what I feel they have done. They have concentrated on getting the right personnel in the right spots. They seem to have got a few things right along the way. They have won a few games along the way too -- after a disastrous tour to South Africa and after a series of ills in the shortened form of the game. India's plan appears to be coming together.
The team management seems to be inextricably zeroing in on a workable team composition. One gets the feeling that, at least in the minds of captain, coach and selector, tickets have been booked for much of the 15-member team for the World Cup. They now seem to be iterating around the edges to fine-tune a few remaining spots.
So what have we learned from the selections so far?
Given that the team has rested Saurav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, M. S. Dhoni and Zaheer Khan for the 3rd ODI in Chennai today, I think that this quartet has already booked its place on the final XV to the World Cup. Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar are also definitely in.
I'd find it hard to believe that a fit Yuvraj Singh won't make it. He is an important player in the overall scheme of things. The remaining 6 matches of India's preparations should sharpen him up. These matches are a chance for him to prove that he is match-fit. It would be nice for him to be allowed the opportunity to work himself to peak fitness with the body and the bat/ball. His presence in the field is as important for India as his ability to score in the death overs.
Given the importance that both the coach and captain place on an in-form Irfan Pathan, I'd find it hard to believe that Pathan is left out when the final-cut is decided on.
So, that makes it 8 definite spots taken (in my books at least).
The team for the Chennai match is (in possible batting order):
Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Anil Kumble, Sreesanth.
This is a good team roll that has its composition targetted to the World Cup.
This is Uthappa's big chance. He may be in a fight with Gambhir for the openers' slot. I do hope Uthappa shines in this match. I rate him highly. I'd like to see him on the plane to the Windies.
This may also be a fight between Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina for a slot in the middle order.
Ajit Agarkar may have done enough to book a ticket to West Indies.
I think this is also a test for Sreesanth to see if he has it in him to bowl tight and straight for 10 overs.
And finally, it appears also that there is a fight between Powar and Kumble for an extra spinners' slot. I have a feeling that Powar may have done enough with some accurate bowling in the last match, but there may be a few questions on his batting. Is he as good with the bat as people around him (and his Ranji scores) seem to make out?
So, it would seem to me that the team for the World Cup is shaping up to be:
Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, [Gautam Gambhir / Robin Uthappa], [Suresh Raina / Dinesh Karthik], Ajit Agarkar, [S. Sreesanth], [Ramesh Powar / Anil Kumble].
From what I have read, S. Sreesanth may be in a fight for a spot with Munaf Patel.
That would leave two spots.
One of them would have to be Virender Sehwag. He has, in my view, sweated enough and it is perhaps time to bring him into the equation for the games against Sri Lanka.
The final bits of polish can be applied to the team at that point. In my view, things are shaping up nicely from a selection point of view.