Let’s face it. Team India lags at 5th place on the ICC ODI table.
As I indicated in a previous article on gurus and pundits, a lot of former Indian cricketers have been incredibly busy lately achieving more exposure than Mallika Sherawat!
Lots of pundits have talked up India’s chances. Sunil Gavaskar says that India will bring home the World Cup “because of the sheer passion generated by the game in the country.” Since when did the passion of a billion cricket fans sitting about 5000 miles away win World Cups! Perhaps he is thinking of a spiritual uplifting in a semi-tantric sense? Who knows what Gavaskar thinks anyway!
Gavaskar’s contemporary, of nose-blowing-fame, I-can-speak-faster-than-you-can-blink-Kris-Srikkanth, opines that India will win. He reckons that, “We have a very well balanced side with experience and all-rounders that has lent stability. The pitches in the West Indies is expected to be similar to those in the sub-continent.”
Be that as it may, what are India’s chances? Realistically?
I honestly believe that the team with the best/most allrounders will win the World Cup. Again, I am hapy to be proven wrong and will happily eat humble pie if this is proven wrong. But I feel India missed a few beats in the lead up to the World Cup. I felt that the coach and captain embarked on the right path by egging Pathan on as an allrounder. This, and the making-of-Dhoni (as an allrounder) were both master-strokes when India played that exciting spell of ODI cricket in September-October 2005 agaisnt South Africa and Sri Lanka.
However, it seemed as though coach-and-captain had pinned all their hopes on this one horse. When Pathan’s bowling fell away, they appeared to have no Plan-B. They should have, at that point in time, groomed a Joginder Sharma or someone else. They could have opted to over-bowl Virender Sehwag in an attempt to get that bowling contribution from him going in a much more compelling manner. It is likely that Pathan will come good in the World Cup. But, prima facie evidence suggests that India faces a marginally under-cooked situation in the allrounder stakes. I feel this could hurt India’s chances.
Allrounders give teams amazing flexibility. And that’s most required in the ODI game today. India do not have it — not enough of it anyway, in my view! One could argue that Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly can bowl too. Yes they do. But they are not allrounders in the mould of Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson, Andrew Flinitoff, Jacques Kallis, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Sanath Jayasuriya, Abdul Razzaq (Azhar Mahmood), Shoaib Mallik, Shaun Pollock and Chris Gayle…
It would be most surprising if the players named above do not bowl-out their 10-overs in most games. In other words, they make telling contributions with the ball and bat quite well too. A misfit in this list, in that sense, is probably Shoaib Mallik.
Be that as it may, the absense of an allrounder may hurt India. India does have the bits-and-pieces bowlers who bat very well in Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Ganguly. We also have a bits-and-pieces bat who bowls marginally average: Pathan! These do not make allrounders though.
Note that I have not considered M.S.Dhoni in this comparative discussion on allrounders. In my view, Dhoni is India’s best allrounder. However, I have not thrown him into the allrounder discussion above because, in my view, most teams these days have terrific ‘keeper-bats! Australia has Adam Gilchrist. Sri Lanka has Kumar Sangakkara. South Africa has Mark Boucher. Pakistan have Kamran Akmal (although he is in the midst of a form-slump). New Zealand have Brendon McCullum. I feel that in this regard, West Indies will be hurt by Dinesh Ramdin. England will be hurt by Paul Nixon — if he ‘keeps as well as he talks, his game would perhaps be on another plane altogether!
And for this reason, I think it will be quite a good result for India if we make it past the Super8 stage and into the semi-finals. I would be happy to break an egg on my face myself if India advance to the semi-finals. I’ll break two if India reach the finals.
Don’t get me wrong. I want India to win. And I am not dismissing Team India before even a game has been played! Just like any other Team-India fan, I do want this team to do well. As a Team India fan, I am merely setting my realistic expectations from this team. As the tournament unfolds, I expect these expectations to be re-visited.
There is a reason why India lags 5th in the ICC table. A 5th position is perhaps the best that India can hope for, perhaps? My view is that we must depend on other teams to advance into the Top-4.
From there on in, anything can happen…