The only time India won the cricket World Cup was in 1983. Ever since that epochal moment, the Cup has been elusive for Team India, which has otherwise achieved almost everything on the cricket field. And with the 2011 World Cup round the corner, every Indian cricket fan is hoping the nation’s dream of an encore would come true this time around. We have dethroned Australia from the No. 1 spot in Test ranking but have proved no match to their winning the World Cup four times, including three in a row.
India’s World Cup campaign would revolve around a team that has batsmen who can bowl and bowlers who can bat. The team can actually boast of more bowlers than batsmen. No back-up wicket-keeper for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the absence of one extra batsman in the squad will pose uncomfortable questions ahead of the showpiece tournament.
The selectors could have been better off picking Dinesh Karthik instead of one of the spinners. It would have given the team the option of having an extra keeper, extra opener/batsman and also a capable fielder sans gloves. Moreover, Karthik is cool headed player and has ample experience behind him.
The 15-man squad comprises seven bowlers and seven batsmen, with Dhoni undoubtedly qualifying more as a batsman, making the total batsmen to eight. Of the batsmen on hand, at least five can roll their arms over should the need be there, and almost all five have at times performed like frontline bowlers. In fact, this ensures we have 12 available bowling options. Perhaps, India will be the only team which has such a combination in a squad of 15.
By picking three spinners, the selectors have just added ammunition which may remain unused. The selectors have taken a gamble in going for an extra spinner at the cost of an additional batting option. India will be going into the World Cup with the uncomforting truth that their batting looked suspect on the recent tour of South Africa. Of course, it helps that the mega event will be played in the sub continent.
Then there are fitness concerns to the batting department with three potential openers in Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir all nursing injuries. God forbid, if one or two of them either do not recover in time or aggravate their injury! We do not have a plan B.
The team appears to have the wherewithal to win the World Cup. Tendulkar will be playing his 6th World Cup. Just like Team India post 1983, the maestro has achieved everything on the field, save for being part of a World Cup-winning side. He wants to win it this time for his team and his team wants to win it for him. Let’s pray both of them succeed.
Now that the squad is picked, there is no looking back. This isn’t the time to moan. The selectors have done their job and let’s hope the campaign turns out to be a champagne moment for all of us.
(Venkat Balantrapu works in senior insurance management in Tanzania. He has deep passion for cricket and has played the game at various levels in India, and also in some of the African countries for over a period of two decades. Venkat writes on the game with the same passion for various websites and magazines)