By Suhrid Barua
Every run-up to the World Cup has a coat of excitement. The scenario is not any different for Team India this time. There would be billion hopes, billion prayers and much, much more – all wanting just one thing: India emerging supreme in the 2011 World Cup. But even as the nation is awash with optimism, it’s only prudent to ponder over the shortcomings of the team.
The fifth bowler would be a matter of concern for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a potential cannon fodder for the opposition, if not handled with care. As India relies on batting all-rounders to do the job, containment becomes their primary objective than getting wickets. India are heavily tipped to play four regular bowlers (three seamers and one spinner or two seamers and two spinners) and one shudders to think what would happen if any one among the four has an off day at the office.
There is plenty of room for improvement in India’s fielding department. India doesn’t have too many swift movers in the outfield nor do they have strong arms. Even inside the ring, India does not have adequate fielders who are capable of attacking the ball. Barring Suresh Raina and to a certain extent Yuvraj Singh (his fielding is not what it used to be), Dhoni can at best hope to hide the slow men and hope that the ball doesn’t follow them.
Pressure would also be a big factor. No matter how formidable team you are, pressure is something that can take a huge toll. India is playing in the World Cup in the sub continent for the third time and history suggests we always look impressive in the league phase but crumble in the knock-out stage. Memories of the 1987 World Cup semi-final loss to England and Kapil’s ugly heave off Eddie Hemmings still haunts us. And how can we forget India’s abject surrender at the hands of the Sri Lankans at the 1996 World Cup semi-final after India seemed to grab the initiative after dismissing the dangerous Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya early.
Many may argue about the behavior of the Eden Gardens wicket, but then Sachin Tendulkar made the batting look so easy on that wicket, scoring a half-century before pressure, a crumbling wicket and rioting crowd combined to deny India a final berth.
There would be a touch of concern about Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, all of whom are coming into the competition with injuries that laid them off. Praveen Kumar’s injury must have made the team management realize the importance of not taking anything for granted. All three are vital cogs in the team’s scheme of things and God forbid, if anything goes wrong, it would be a big blow for India.
A lot would depend on how Dhoni plays his cards smartly and ensure India’s weaknesses are covered adequately.
All of India would be hoping for Dhoni’s men to lay their hands on the glittering trophy at the Wankhede Stadium on April 2 but let’s not overburden the team with the weight of expectations. Let them play their natural game and enjoy themselves for we don’t want a repeat of 1987 and 1996 World Cups.
(Suhrid Barua is a cricket buff who invariably gets pumped up before every India match)