Now that Team India is in the final stages of preparation prior to flying off to the West Indies, it is that time for fans like us to speculate on team-sheets and talk about who will play in the big games.
Unless they sustain an injury or a terribly sudden and inexplicable loss of form, it is safe for us to assume that Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan are dead-certainties in every game that India plays. This list of dead-certs consumes seven positions.
We have to play four more. Given the above list, ideally this would be 2 batsmen and 2 bowlers — with the added condition that at least one of the two batsmen should be able to bowl at least 5 overs and share the 5th bowlers’ quota alongwith Tendulkar, Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh. Ideally, both of the batsmen should be able to bowl at least 5 overs.
The two out-and-out bowler spots could be
A: [Munaf Patel and Harbhajan Singh] or
B: [Sree Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh]
C: [Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh]
D: [Munaf Patel and Anil Kumble]
E: [Sree Sreesanth and Anil Kumble]
My personal preference is for [A] above. Under this option, I’d suggest that the team opens the bowling with Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel. I’d also bowl-out Munaf Patel on the trot and send him inside the pavillion with a feigned injury — Dinesh Karthik can then substitute in the field for Patel! 🙂
The two other spots could be (two bats or bats-who-can-bowl):
1: [Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan] or
2: [Virender Sehwag and Robin Uthappa]
3: [Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan]
4: [Dinesh Karthik and Virender Sehwag]
5: [Dinesh Karthik and Irfan Pathan]
6: [Dinesh Karthik and Robin Uthappa]
As I have said in a previous post on this blog, “I do not believe that the team should look to have Pathan bowl-out his 10 overs. He is not, in my view, a 10 over bowler in ODIs. He should be treated as a “bit bowler” in the same mould as a Jacques Kallis or a Michael Clarke or an Andrew Symonds or indeed, a Virender Sehwag. That may help clarify his role in the team a bit better. Of course, there will be days when he bowls magnificently to have figures of 10-2-35-3. But then, these should be bonuses rather than the norm.”
Of the 2 batsmen combinations, I think we can eliminate  above since it does not satisfy the additional bowling caveat. Of the remaining five combinations, my preference would be to go with  above for the warm-up games. In this situation, Sehwag would open the batting with Ganguly. In the event that Sehwag does not hit his straps in these warm-up games, we should go with option  or .
Clearly, at least in my mind, the unresolved spot-tussle is for India to select 2 from Pathan-Sehwag-Uthappa. My feeling is that in the two warm-up games, all three should play to settle the issue.
I have a feeling that Dinesh Karthik will be a “Water Carrier” in this World Cup unless one of the bats sustains an injury or a terrible loss of form.
So, the team sheet for the warm up games should read (Tendulkar rested):
Uthappa, Ganguly, Sehwag, Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, M.S.Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.
And it is likely that the team-sheet for the first two games
March 17, Bangladesh V India — Group B match, and
March 19, Bermuda v India — Group B match
(both at Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad) could read:
Sehwag, Ganguly, Pathan, Tendulkar, Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, M.S.Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.
And yes, in this team, I would go with Pathan at #3.