The cricket world cup season has arrived. Come 18th February the 43 days cricketing extravaganza will grip the subcontinent. With less than a month to go before India plays its first match I have selected my best Indian team that will carry the hope of billion people forward.
Sachin Tendulkar - Playing his 6th world cup he will be keen to lay his hands over it. He is currently in his best period as a batsman and will capitalise on it. His aim will be to hold the innings together and bat for as many overs as possible because his mere presence in the middle is a morale booster for the dressing room. Even after 21 years as an international cricketer, he remains to be the most prized wicket for the opponents. In the last 12 months he has played just four one day international games and recently has suffered from an injury but that should not be an area of concern because he is the best judge of himself. A big occasion player who thrives on a stage such as this he will look to make this edition count as this might be his last limited over assignment (though you never know with the man). The highest scorer of world cup cricket would love to bow out on his home ground (Wankhede) on a winning note on 2nd April 2011.
Season 2010-11 (Batting): M – 2, I – 2, NO – 0, R – 31, HS – 24, Avg – 15.50
Virender Sehwag - Technique is not the criteria while selecting certain players and Sehwag is one among them. He automatically walks into any playing XI for the impact he causes when he gets going. It is difficult for the opponent to have a fixed plan for him because on his day he can destroy the best attacks of the world. A natural striker of the cricket ball he is always looking for scoring opportunities albeit a few quick dismissals. He can mentally defeat any opponent the day he gets going and that is what Messer Kirsten & co would be expecting from him, to at least bat for 20 overs. On field he is a sharp catcher. More importantly in the sub continent conditions his off spin will be an ideal resource for the team and will be a key tool to break partnerships.
Season 2010-11: Yet to play
Gautam Gambhir – As Harsha Bhogle pointed out recently, he brings gravity to the famed Indian batting line up. Naturally an opener he has to settle for the number 3 position till the little master is playing. That is an added bonus for the team as Gambhir has shown in the past his tenacity to carry on his bat if he gets set. He is a rhythm player who will go with the flow once he settles down in the middle usually converting starts into big hundreds. The whole middle order can revolve around him. Sub continental conditions will suit his style of play and will give him an extra over or two to get his eye in. On field he has got a sharp cricketing brain and can have a few inputs while patrolling the outfield.
Season 2010-11 (Batting): M – 5, I – 5, NO – 2, R – 329, HS – 138*, Avg – 109.66
Yuvraj Singh – The stylish south paw’s batting form has been an area of major concern and the flamboyancy has been missing in the recent past. He has failed to play in and get a feel in the middle although he has come in to bat quite early in the last few matches. He has been edgy and has looked low on confidence but the beauty of Yuvraj is that he is always an innings away from getting into the groove. Being a senior member and a part of the think tank he is well backed by the team management and is due for delivery in the mega tournament. Yuvraj on his day is any opponent’s nemesis but for that he needs to get set before trying to press the accelerator button. Concurrently he has been the team’s best spinner in the recent past and is easily fills in the all rounder slot for the time being. Dhoni being a pro spin captain will look forward for a full quota of overs from the left arm spinner. Though his fitness levels have dropped drastically yet he is one of the fast movers on the field and that is an asset worth 10 to 20 runs.
Season 2010-11 (Batting): M – 11, I – 10, NO – 2, R – 269, HS – 58, Avg – 33.62
Season 2010-11 (Bowling): M – 11, I-10, O – 63, R – 309, W – 10, BB-3/34, Avg – 30.90, Econ – 4.90
Virat Kohli – In the last season he has been India’s best batsman and has made the number three position his own but now with the big three back he has to play the role of floater, something Mohammed Kaif did exceedingly well in the 2003 world cup team. During the initial stages of the build up to the world cup a few of the fringe players were given a chance to make a statement but it was only Kohli who sealed the deal for himself by scoring 7 half centuries and 2 centuries in 26 winning matches that he has been a part of. This goes to show the kind of influence he has managed to create in the team environment. His youthful vigour and tapered aggression has held him in good stead and in a team packed with world class batters he will have an edge over Suresh Raina in the race for the 7th batsman. A livewire on the field he can well be the fielding captain of the team.
Season 2010-11 (Batting): M -11, I – 11, NO – 2, R – 545, HS – 118, Avg – 60.55
Mahendra Singh Dhoni – Captain cool. Over the last few seasons barring the home series against New Zealand he has been the lone consistent face in a team otherwise filled with injuries. His superb analytical brain and apt leadership skills have been the key reason for India’s rise to the top. His batting average as a captain is 52. 87 and that goes to show his contribution which is usually understated. His stoic appearance dilutes the pressure during intense match situation and his immaculate record of 53 wins as a captain is a testimony of his precise game reading skills.
Season 2010-11 (Batting): M- 6, I - 6, NO-2, R-75, HS-38, Avg – 12.50
Yusuf Pathan – He was never a part of the original world cup plan until Bangalore happened and further evidence of it was on display in South Africa. Brutal chaotic entertainment is how his batting has been described and that is exactly why he finds a place in the team. He is a high impact player who can rewrite match scripts but he is not going to deliver in every match however that cannot be the reason to keep him out of the team. He can be used as the other floater of the team and his role will change depending on match situations. Getting his eye in will be the key because after that the cricket ball looks like a football to him. He might not play all the matches if the team decides to go in with an extra bowler or an established batsman in the form of Suresh Raina. Yusuf is a safe fielder and though his bowling is not as effective as Sehwag or Yuvraj but has this peculiar knack of picking up an odd wicket here and there.
Season 2010-11 (Batting): M- 8, I - 5, NO-1, R-318, HS-123*, Avg – 79.50
Harbhajan Singh – of late the turbanator has been criticised for under delivering but that is unfair on a bowler who is closing on 250 one day international wickets. In South Africa he was back to his wily ways and it was just the tonic he needed before getting to bowl on the subcontinent wickets. His bounce will be difficult to judge on tracks that primarily favour spin. His role will be more premium while India has to defend a score under lights. He has the ability to break the momentum of the opposition’s batting and that will turn the games in India’s favour. The aggressor in Bhajji will also deliver a few lusty blows and add vital runs to the board when he comes to bat in the slog overs.
Season 2010-11 (Bowling): M – 5, I – 5, O – 47, R – 205, W – 4, BB – 2/23, Avg. – 51.25, Econ. – 4.36
Praveen Kumar – PK is one of those countryside cricketers who brings that never say die spirit into the team. He is a utility player who will manage to swing the white ball prodigiously and also score a few quick runs at more than run a ball down the order. His economical spells and ability to induce early breakthroughs makes him an important part of this Indian line up. He plays his cricket well within his limitation and bowls to the field that his captain sets for him. He may not have the pace but batsman can take risk against him at their own peril. His chirpiness and UPwallah jokes keep the team’s humour mill running.
Season 2010-11 (Bowling): M – 3, I – 3, O – 22, R – 113, W – 1, BB – 1/20, Avg. - 113, Econ. – 5.13
Zaheer Khan - He is India’s bowling captain. If there is one Indian bowler who has made the ball to talk in the last few years then it is he. He has developed into a cunning artist who plays around the minds of the batsmen and sets them up before trapping them. With able support from the other end he has the ability to rip apart any batting line up on his day and will be expected to do so during the world cup. During the slog overs he bowls those perfect yorkers that India had been searching for long. His presence at mid-off offers a lot of confidence to other bowlers as he gives them timely advices using his experience. He is also a dependable tail ender who the team can depend on if the need be to get a quick 10 to 15 runs.
Season 2010-11 (Bowling) – M – 7, I – 7, O – 62.2, R – 297, W – 11, BB – 3/43, Avg. 27, Econ. – 4.76
Munaf Patel – He is one more player who was not a part of the initial world cup plan but things changed once he was inducted into the playing XI. His second coming has been phenomenal. Though he has reduced his pace drastically yet his probing line and length raises a few questions in the batsman’s mind before committing to a shot. The last time he played more than nine matches on a trot was in 2006-07 but this season has tilted the equation in his favour. He is here to stay because he has made it clear that he means business. However on field he is one fielder who has to be hidden well.
Season 2010-11 (Bowling) – M –9, I- 9, O – 70, R – 316, W – 13, BB – 4/29, Avg. – 24.30, Econ. – 4. 51
The bench warmers:
Piyush Chawala, Ravi Chandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Asish Nehra
India’s league schedule:
19th February (Saturday, 2pm IST) : Vs. Bangladesh (Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur)
27th February (Sunday, 2.30pm IST): Vs. England (Eden Gardens, Kolkata)
6th March (Sunday, 2pm IST): Vs. Ireland (M. Chinnaswamy, Bangalore)
9th March (Wednesday, 2.30pm IST): Vs. Netherlands (Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi)
12th March (Saturday, 2.30pm IST): Vs. South Africa (Vidarbha Cricket Association, Nagpur)
20th March (Sunday, 2.30pm IST): Vs. West Indies (Chepauk, Chennai)
Statistics and schedule courtesy www.cricinfo.com
26th January 2011,10.26pm