Virat Kohli © Getty Images
Virat Kohli © Getty Images

 

By Venkat Balantrapu

 

The India for the World Cup is undoubtedly the strongest on paper, looking into the recent and immediate past individual batting performances. Such is the embarrassment of batting riches that talented and deserving batsmen often necessarily have to sit out.

 

What the team needs is stability in the middle overs for the men with the firepower later to launch the final assault.  The one slot in the middle order for which Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli will be vying for will be critical to India’s batting fortunes in this World Cup.

 

Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan are certainties in the final eleven. Yuvraj Singh, a proven match winner but the most consistently inconsistent batsman of late, is also likely to be seen in action in the first few matches to cement his place.

 

His current form does not make him an automatic choice in the eleven, but his track record and proven all-round abilities warrant he gets preferential treatment in the initial stages.

 

The absence of a left arm spinner in the squad enhances Yuvraj’s selection claims as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni could well do with that variety and option in the bowling resources at his command. Yuvraj has on more than one occasion risen to the occasion at critical times in vital matches for India – Stuart Broad will vouch for that!

 

This leaves two young hearts in Raina and Kohli battling to fill in the remaining batting slot. Both deserve it in their own right. While Raina holds the edge as a senior pro and a tested batsman, Kohli’s form and knack of grabbing opportunities with both hands will be given serious consideration by the selectors.

 

Raina’s early promise was dented for a while the Greg Chappell era. He lost his confidence when he was made to bat in almost all positions. His confidence came back under the leadership of Dhoni for Chennai Super Kings. While his recent lack of form and temperament will be a setback, his athletic fielding and ability to hit deep over the fence will be plusses in his favour.

 

On the other hand, Kohli has played a big hand in India’s ODI success in the last one year. He was India’s best bet and if cricket had an award for the “Best & Promising Youngster”, Kohli would have no serious contest to bag the honours. His tenure at the wicket always gives the impression that he is one of the seniors with a specific purpose of not only stabilizing the innings but also dominating the bowling attack with disdain.

 

Fortunately for Dhoni, despite the handicap of having one batsman less in the squad, he can afford different permutations and combinations in the batting line-up, thanks to these two.

 

India is one of the most formidable batting outfits not only due to the individual talents, but also due to the various options it has at its command. If Kohli gives an extra 30 runs due to his batting, Raina is sure to cut the opposition total by at least 30 runs through his brilliance on the field. Both are match winners in their own right and will surely cash in on any slip by Yuraj or Pathan. If Dhoni, too, returns to form, no total will appear small to chase.

 

Dhoni is a shrewd captain and knows how to play his cards. He also knows Indian middle order is like a piece of shining glass that needs to be handled with care!

 

(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)