There was a time when I would have made this post five minutes after the team was announced ... how things have changed!!! Better late than never!Batsmen
- First time probably that a squad is selected with two keepers and having realistic chances of both playing in a match ... one as a keeper-bat and the other as a bat.
BhajjiThe wild cards
When I see this team, a few things strike me. The most obvious being the return of Ganguly and Zaheer as the spearheads of the batting and bowling attacks respectively. How things change and who could have imagined this a few months back? U can't keep a good man down and these two just go onto prove it - though I prefer to say - "You can't keep a good man down but sometimes u gotta kick his ass to get him up".
The team is looking pretty decent right now and if the wild cards can settle themselves somewhere, this will be one team to reckon with. SRT and Ganguly while not exactly setting the Thames on fire, are looking better match by match. Uthappa seems to be having trouble with the short one but just like one can't make a reputation in two games, neither can a reputation be torn in two games. The pitches in the Windies are not really going to be the pacy, bouncy type (at least going by India's last two visits to the Windies) and with some work, he shoudl be able to handle all but the best of short pitched fast bowling.
I somehow dislike Dravid coming in at 3 every now and then and wonder why he can't see how good he is at 5. Experts keep talking about him coming in at 3 to provide solidity and anchoring to the batting but in a 50 overs game, who needs anchoring? In a test match, yes, but in an ODI, all he does it something a lesser mortal can do .... and towards the end, as he showed in the third ODI against SL, the new improved Dravid of the past two years is an excellent choice for No. 5 ... "he fits like a glove" ... "he is made exactly to measure" - to borrow two dialogues from a favorite movie of mine - Fiddler on the Roof. He can improvise ... he doesn't really panic and can see the game through ... and he seems to have added some "big hit" shots to his armoury in the past couple of years ... things u could never imagine from the Dravid of some years back.
Anyways, Sreesanth is lucky to be in the list considering he bowls like a millionaire in the ODI game. The rest of the bowlers were automatic choices once they were all considered fit ... the only missed bet in this could be Ramesh Powar ... he has outbowled both Kumble and Bhajji in the last few months in the chances he got ... and if current form and merit were the only criteria, one of the two stalwarts should have missed out. Unluckily for Powar, reputation played a part.
Reputation also brought Sehwag a second world cup call up. Based on form, he would be behind both Uthappa and Gambhir if considered for opener position.
That is another confusion I have here .... I thought Sehwag was being positioned for the middle order (the Chuckster has been hollering for two years now that Sehwag should be shunted to No. 4 or 5) and he goes and opens in the 3rd ODI against the Sri Lankans. If he had come up with a 60 odd in the game, the cat would indeed be among the pigeons. The point is - Uthappa has gotten some chances at the top and he has performed reasonably well to expect him to be the opener. Now if Sehwag were to hit a 60, it would in no way answer the question as to whether he has a future as a ODI opener (look at his career stats), but it would definitely put the pressure on the team management to make him bat up top. Then what happens down below - can Uthappa fill the slot below? He has never even been tried down below while Sehwag knows what it is like to bat in the middle order.
If u look at a realistic 11 for the WC among the team selected -
Gangs - 1 or 2
Mr. X - 1 or 2
SRT - 3
Yuveraj - 4
Dravid - 5
Dhoni - 6
Batsman 7 (Sehwag / Kaarthick / Uthappa) or Pathan
If batsman 7 is taken, then we go in with 4 regular bowlers and if Pathan is taken we go in with 5 regular bowlers and still not compromising too much with batting. I think it is too close to the world cup start now to expect Pathan to be one of the main bowlers ... it is either fifth bowler (all rounder) for him or nothing.
While the line up above is risky in terms of Yuveraj being woefully short of match practice, what is the option? Once the 15 is selected, one has to make the team of 11 out of it. The only way to sideline Yuveraj in case he looks shaky in the practice games would be to play both Uthappa and Sehwag .... one up top and the other in the middle.
So who will be Mr. X - I would personally keep Mr. X as Uthappa simply because Sehwag if playing as batsman 7 or in place of Yuveraj can bat in the middle ... it would be too much of an ask to bat Uthappa in the middle right at the start of his career and that too at a stage as big as the world cup.
If Yuveraj were to re-discover his touch, I think India's troubles would be more or less over ... sure that still leaves the batsman 7 / Pathan conundrum but I have never seen a perfect line up yet and am not hoping to see one in this world cup. If Yuveraj were to get the touch he enjoyed prior to the second ODI in the Windies where he got bowled by that slow full toss from Bravo (curse ya, Bravo .... curse ya), this team would have a lethal batting attack. However, I continue to be surprised at the vagaries of fate ... a batsman batting like a dream till that full toss handed the match (and the series to follow) to the Windies suddenly loses it all in the next few months .... truly a killer blow but are batsmen so fragile mentally? All it took was one ball ... and the swaggering, confident Yuveraj is replaced by the pusher and poker who looks like he can't finish his dessert any more? Strange game, this!
A lot of people talked about taking two wicket keepers to the WC being unnecessary etc ... and I laugh when we call them experts and hold our mikes in front of them to get some sound bytes. What phucking two wicket keepers? Sure, Kaarthick is no Dravid or Ganguly or SRT but on current form, he is very much as much a batsman as Sehwag or Uthappa or Yuveraj. In the recent past (including SA), he has grabbed whatever chances he got and made a decent if not outstanding contribution. I think opportunists like him is what Indian cricket needs ... so many in the past would have gotten the same chances, made a meal of it, gotten dumped and whined about a lack of proper chances. Kaarthick is an example ... he got a "few" chances ... he took those few chances ... and hey, he is going to the world cup. Ganguly and Zaheer at least were the big names and their coming back on the basis of form was always possible since they had the credentials to back their claims ... Karthick's selection is simply a reward for grabbing of chances ... or a lack of other choices, whichever way u want to take it. Sure, two wicket keepers are not required ... but who says Kaarthick is a worse batsman today than Sehwag or Uthappa or Yuveraj .... or Raina / Kaif / Mongia?
Overall I am happy with the selection ... only wish Powar had made it but that is probably the only grouse. Greg and Dravid have experimented with a whole bunch of guys in the past months and not many have shown themselves to be upto scratch. So when someone complains of A, B or C not being chosen (am sure Sunny Gavaskar will be out with his column soon ... ridiculing Greg Chappell for his failed experiments ... commenting on the selection of Kaarthick ahead of the youth brigade promoted by Greg), we have to ask - what are the choices? In the end, though Raina seems to be a favorite of the coach, if he doesn't look like currently being able to make any runs, there is no point in his going to the Windies ... might as well take Kaarthick who looks like he fits into the International scene, if not like a glove, then at least like a sock. Yuck ... even I didn't like that comparison.
Laxman seems to be unhappy ... but as the Chuckster always said - either he bats at 1, 2 or 3 ... or doesn't get to play. Dravid has developed so much as a ODI player in the past two years ... Laxman could do well to compare himself with Dravid two-three years back .... and today ... and see what a gulf exists today.
Anyways ... fun times r ahead .... one ODI match left against Lanka and I hope they play the 11 they have in mind for the World Cup ... I would like to see how that team performs.
To sign off ... there was this funny comment of Sreesanth commenting on finally having learnt the art of bowling in ODIs and promising not to give away too many runs ... and then promptly getting hammered in the next ODI. LOL!!! Anyways, what does he mean - he learnt??? How did he gain this magic knowledge in between matches ... what took him so long ... and is he never gonna get hit around again? LOL again.
Chalo cheers guys