In recent times, given that rain washed out the 1st ODI between India in Australia, MS Dhoni has captured some of the print- and air-space with his comments on team composition, come the World Cup. Ever since the completion of the exciting 2-Test series between India and Australia, after the accolades and paeans, after investigating Shane Warne’s tweets, and after dissecting the Australian media’s castigation of Ricky Ponting, there has not been much to write about!
Even the strange news of Manoj Prabhakar’s appointment as coach of the Delhi Ranji team does not make big news. I must say that I found it a very strange appointment. There is enough there from the man’s past for everyone to progress with appointments such as this with extreme caution. Perhaps only the DDCA could have dared pull off something as brazen as this! We will have to wait and see how the players react to this appointment. However, as I said, this appointment hasn’t really made the news. That is how slow things have been!
It has been a slow-news week in India cricket circles. The next ODI game cannot come fast enough.
Strangely, the same Indian media that was crying foul (earlier on in the year) at the low/small number of Test matches India plays is now spitting chips because there are only 12 ODI matches to go before the World Cup is on us! What does the Indian sport media want? More ODIs? More Tests? India needs to make up her mind! For my money, I think India has got the Tests-ODI balance right.
I think MS Dhoni is right when he says that, barring injury, only a few ODI spots remain for Team India as it marches towards its goal of delivering to Sachin Tendulkar, the one medal that he so covets — victory in the ODI World Cup!
Barring unforeseen injuries (and drastic dips in form), we must assume that the team will read:
B1 / B2
Harbhajan Singh / S1
Praveen Kumar / P1
Ashish Nehra / P2
The balance of the above team and the fact that India has no real all-rounders to talk about, will mean that India has to go with 4 front-line bowlers and have Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, B1/B2 and Virender Sehwag share 10 overs between them. This is just how it is.
This also then means that S1 cannot be a bits-and-pieces player like Ravindra Jadeja. S1 has to be a spin-for-spin replacement for Harbhajan Singh in case of an injury (or dip in form) for India’s frontline spinner. The choice for me for S1, therefore, is between R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. I would back Ashwin because of the variety he offers.
The P1/P2 choice is simple. There are any number of people to chose from such as Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Sree Santh, Joginder Sharma (remember him?), Manpreet Gony, Umesh Yadav, Siddharth Trivedi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Abhimanyu Mithun and Jaidev Unnadkat. But my money will be on Vinay Kumar and Munaf Patel to grab those two spots. It is a sad reflection of the nature of the cup-board.
This leaves B1/B2.
Dhoni is in search of an all-rounder and a hard-hitting batsman (B1, B2). I would be very surprised if Virat Kohli is not B1. Dhoni has backed Sourabh Tiwary in recent interviews, and it might well be the hard-hitting lad from Jharkhand that gets the final nod. So we could have Sourabh Tiwary, M. Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan contesting for one final spot (B2).
Given that M. Vijay is essentially seen as an opener and given the Yusuf Pathan has not troubled the selection meeting much in recent times, the choice is between Sourabh Tiwary, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. At least this explains why we continue to see Jadeja in the team! I thought we had seen the last of him after the ODIs against Sri Lanka. If Dhoni wants a hard-hitting batsman, then the shoulder-tap must belong to Sourabh Tiwary or Rohit Sharma.
India must, on the day, go with either a batsman or R. Ashwin at that vital #7 spot.
So, for me, the ODI Team India for the World Cup (barring injuries and dips in form) is likely to be:
Virat Kohli / Sourabh Tiwary (or R. Jadeja or Rohit Sharma)
Harbhajan Singh / R. Ashwin
Praveen Kumar / Vinay Kumar
Ashish Nehra / Munaf Patel
So to my mind, there is really one spot up for grabs, really.
The 12 matches between now and the World Cup (2 against Australia, 5 against New Zealand at home and 5 against South Africa in South Africa) should be enough to sort out the extra spots. India needs a few questions answered:
– Is Ravindra Jadeja really good?
– Is Ashwin the next best spinner in the land?
– Can Munaf Patel play a string of matches together?
– Has Vinay Kumar arrived?
A few questions to be answered. If 12 matches cannot answer these questions, 25 matches will not!