Nishad Pai Vaidya delves into Sourav Ganguly’s recent statements which suggest that India are yet to find their combination for the 2015 World Cup. In the first of two parts, he discusses the batting and the possible contenders who might be in the fray for the big event.
Have India found their perfect combination for the 2015 World Cup?
Sourav Ganguly feels a team can only be assessed in the long run and not on the basis of a few victories in succession. While the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 was a huge moment for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side, it isn’t enough to determine India’s make-up for the big event two years down the line.
In this first part of the series, let us have a look at the batting line-up and how it could possibly shape up before the next World Cup.
Firstly, India have axed Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir — men who played pivotal roles in the 2011 World Cup victory. Sehwag had not only lost form, but his fitness as well. He will be 36-years old when the next World Cup comes about, and his prospects are not bright. A comeback into the one-day team seems far-fetched, but then stranger things have happened.
Gambhir is not that old [he will be 33] by the time the next World Cup dawns and could still stake his claims. In the past, he has made a return to the Indian team with consistent performances at the domestic level.
In the middle of 2005, Ganguly was also axed following an ugly spat with coach Greg Chappell. The elegant southpaw did not feature in a One-Day International (ODI) throughout 2006. Yet, he was back for the 2007 World Cup. It shows how fortunes change. Gambhir may keep Ganguly in mind to draw inspiration.
Don’t write off Yuvraj Singh — a proven fighter who has triumphed in the most challenging circumstances. He finds himself out of the side now, but has the guts and grits to work his way back. Yuvraj isn’t just a match winner; he is tournament winner. He went through a lean patch before the last World Cup and returned to script a fairytale. This is what will keep him going as he would eye a return before the next edition.
Currently, India have found a solid opening combination in Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. Dhawan plays with Sehwag-like swagger and is fearless in his approach. On the other hand, Rohit has done well to temper his game and complement Dhawan’s aggression. However, is Rohit a long term option as an opener? He has certainly shown great application and maturity, but only needs to convert those starts. In the long run, that will determine whether he holds on to his spot. On the other hand, Dhawan has had a purple patch, but needs to play consistently in the months ahead.
Apart from Gambhir, Rohit and Dhawan would also face some competition from Murali Vijay. The Tamil Nadu batsman doesn’t have a very good one-day record, even as his Test career seems to have taken off. Yet, there is something about his game that has the team management interested.
Dinesh Karthik has returned to the side at the back of sterling performances in domestic cricket. Being a wicket-keeper is an added advantage as he can fill in for Dhoni in the hour of need. He does face some fight from Wriddhiman Saha. Perhaps a Parthiv Patel, Muralidharen Gautam or any another keeper may throw his hat in the ring in the next two years. Thus, it is imperative that Karthik keeps himself ahead with vital contributions with the bat. That is what got him into the 2007 World Cup squad and may well do the trick this time.
In the current setup, only Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina seem certain to play the next World Cup — barring a drastic change in fortunes. Kohli and Dhoni’s role would become even more crucial as they are the mainstays the middle. However, Raina has to prove his mettle on fast and lively wickets as they would encounter the kind in Australia. He has been a cool finisher and has to carry that form on those challenging surfaces.
Ravindra Jadeja should make it by virtue of being an all-rounder and brilliance on the field.
Ambati Rayudu has been performing well and the selectors have taken note of that. He might come into the mix of things if anyone in the current order falters.
A youngster who would be on the selectors’ radar is Unmukt Chand, the under-19 World Cup winning captain. Chand is very similar to Kohli and would be eager to walk in his statemate’s footsteps. Kohli established himself in the Indian team in the 18 months leading up to the 2011 World Cup. Chand has time on his side and the selectors may not be able to ignore him for too long if he continues to perform at the domestic level. Perhaps, some new contenders may also emerge with good records in domestic cricket.
Manoj Tiwary, a man who is perpetually hampered by bad luck would certainly be in the scheme of things. If injuries stay away and he is handed the opportunities, India can reap rich rewards from his talent. Yusuf Pathan made it in the nick of time before the last World Cup and would be hoping for a similar fate this time.
India is far from settling upon a combination for the 2015 World Cup as fate will take its own course in the next two years. In all likelihood, the core of the team should remain the same and there could be a few alterations here and there. We have seen it in the past with India as the squad was overhauled under Chappell as he experimented perpetually. However, the side that played the 2007 World Cup was very different to the one India fielded 12 months before the event. There may be a few surprises or even comebacks in store.
to be concluded…