India, since becoming a one-day threat in 1983, have almost always selected atleast one player in its World Cup campaigns as a mere spectator. These “Water Carriers” have had relatively inconsequential careers in both forms of the game, barring maybe one or two of these. The squad announced for the forthcoming World Cup (2007) may run the risk of the same tag. However, I personally feel that it is highly unlikely.
Let’s examine some of the strange “Water Carrier” selection decisions in the past.
Sunil Valson’s is the strangest case of the “Water Carriers”. He has never represented India in any form of the game. In fact, he did not get even one game in the 1983 World Cup and did not play any game for India either before or after that campaign! Yet, he is fortunate to share the glory of India’s only World Cup win so far! Valson had represented Delhi and Railways in the Ranji Trophy and almost played for Tamil Nadu if I am not mistaken.
RMH Binny. CS Pandit, L. Sivaramakrishnan – 1987 World Cup
Roger Binny got one game in this World Cup while Chandrakant Pandit and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan played in two games each. However, as is known to all Indian cricket fans, these three players have represented India with some distinction. The 1987 team was very similar to the one that won the Benson and Hedges Championship in Australia in 1985 and had, one felt, immense potential.
Subrato Bannerjee had a forgettable World Cup, following a disappointing tour to Australia. Indeed, the entire 1992 World Cup campaign was a somewhat forgettable one for India — with the exception of the introduction of one Sachin Tendulkar to the World one day scene. Subroto Banerjee, while getting an opportunity to play in 3 of the World Cup games didn’t necessarily ruffle any feathers. Ironically, in the only test that he every played for India he took 3 for 47 and his scalps included Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh. He was one of the first off the blocks from the MRF Pace Foundation. He has represented New South Wales in addition to being a Bengal regular.
Salil Ankola played one game in this edition of the World Cup and took 0-for-28 in 5 overs. He is perhaps an archetypal “Water Carrier”! Ankola made his debut in the famous 1989-90 series against Pakistan which had Krishnamachari Srikkanth as captain (this series also featured Sachin Tendulkar’s debut and Waqar Younis’s first game as well). Ankola was a terrible fielder and his run up would have put put Shoaib Akthar’s to shame! Ankola found solace in acting and film directing — cricket was obviously not attractive enough for him!
A classic “domestic champion” but not good enough for international cricket, Amay Khurasia did not get a single game in this edition of the World Cup. While he did play a few one-day games for India, he never quite materialized and blossomed as a player of repute. He remained a “domestic bully”! His selection into the 1999 India World Cup team remains a puzzle. Having said that, that entire tournament is a strange one for me. Mohammed Azharuddin was captain with a strong “fixing” squad (with players like himself, Ajay Jadeja, Nikhil Chopra, Nayan Mongia, et al). This campaign also had Sachin Tendulkar return from the unfortunate personal loss of his father midway through the tournament. It also featured that amazing run feast against Sri Lanka. And of all bizzarre things, it had Sadagopan Ramesh in the side as a middle order bat! A forgettable campaign in which the team management admitted to not knowing the Super-Six rules of engagement regarding the carry-over of points from the league stage of the tournament!
This was an amazing World Cup for India, but for the finals crucial game. It was only understandable that Sanjay Bangar did not get a game. Neither did Parthiv Patel, with Dravid donning the gloves for the entire tournament. With one fifty to his name in one dayers, Sanjay Bangar had a better record in the national Test side. His 100 against Zimbabwe in Nagpur during which he gave company to Tendulkar — who got a big one as well — is one to remember, especially since he hit some big shots in that game. Bangar and his successor of a similar style, JP Yadav, who seemed to show some promise and faded away like the other Railways players. Yet, he and (perhaps) Parthiv Patel, remained “Water Carriers” of the team.
The team for the forthcoming world cup is seemingly different. Each and everyone on the side deserves a place in the final eleven based on the current form and experience. With form and physical fitness also coming into question, there is every chance the entire 15 will get reasonable outings at the tournament. Only time will tell!