And yet another final against Sri Lanka finishes with a 100 ball 67 runs from the world’s most highly paid cricketer, an innings where one would be forgiven for thinking that “captain aap ka pen to out (as per the ad I saw on Ten Sports)” was saving his ink for the really significant cricket ahead—-the T20 Championship League, significant in the monetary sense at least.
While the result of any tri-angular tournament involving Sri Lanka has as much effect on me as the news of an impending Emran Hasmi release (namely that of absolute couldn’t-care-less-ness) [the best moment of this series being the gigantic Happy Birthday Malinga pictures on the scoreboard with him dressed like Jeetendra in white], the cricket was significant in the sense that it should give us cricket fans some pause to think about the state of India’s team as we head into the last preparatory lap before the World Cup 2011.
Watching Dinesh Katrik walk all about trying to find the gap, something he could do very well once upon a time as evidenced by this famous picture [Link], one could see why still much of our World Cup hopes rest on Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, his fitness and his form. Just like every World Cup from the 90s. Assuming Sachin is available and firing, our opening pair is formidable. Accepted. Number three slot is also pretty strong—-I stop short of calling it formidable because Gautam Gambhir has climbed down somewhat from the spectacular heights he had attained in 2008 and 2009, though I am sure his running around with a guy in the recent Karbon advertisement has nothing to do with the loss of his mo-jo.
The problem starts from Number four with Yuvraj. One of my favorite cricketers and the greatest water-boy of all time (with apologies to Adam Sandler), his slump has gone over and beyond the “loss of form phase”, though it must be accepted that he has had some rotten luck of late. If he does not reclaim some of his fluidity before he finishes the copy of Shantaram he has been reading, India’s chances in the World Cup become pretty slim considering how vital the No 4 slot is in one days. While I do see Yuvraj making it to the World Cup squad, helped by his ability to bowl decent leg-spinners, the Indian administration do have the option of putting in Virat Kohli at this slot (please no Flabby Sharma), though it would take a brave bunch to make Yuvi sit out a World Cup in India.
Number five and six are pretty solid with Dhoni and Raina. Which brings us to the WTC-size hole in the ground—the seventh position. Dhoni has been putting his faith in Ravindra Jadeja, which increasingly seems to be as solid an investment as putting in money today in a company that only makes floppy disks, since the man bats like Dilip Doshi and bowls like…like Ravindra Jadeja. This leaves two other all-rounders with a realistic chance of getting there—the Pathan brothers. Though there has been a lot of calls for Irfan to get a look-in on Cricinfo comment space and he definitely deserves a look-in before the World Cup, my concerns are whether having him in the team would give us a sameness in terms of attack—-with Zaheer and Nehra most likely to play, three left arm medium pacers seem a bit too much. Combined with the fact that the World Cup is being held in India where there will not be much off the pitch for trundlers like Irfan, there is a good case for Yousuf Pathan.
Yes senior Pathan has been a massive disappointment in ODIs but I think one of the reasons for that has been because he has been unimaginatively used. A man of very limited abilities, I believe the best benefit that can be obtained from him will be if we use him like Warne does for Royals. In Royals, Pathan is a floater whom Warne inserts strategically to break the opponent’s plans and force them to rethink stuff. Similarly Dhoni should use him as the joker in the pack, for instance sending him in in the 27th over with the spinners on and call the Batting Powerplay the moment he comes in. His brief then should be to go for Hell and not even think of lasting out the Powerplay. The response of the opponents might be to bring in their faster men but if they do so, then they may be forced to give the spinners more overs at the end where Raina can take a toll on them.
Number eight is Harbhajan Singh and number nine is Praveen Kumar and each of them are better batsmen than Ravindra Jadeja. No but seriously, it gives India quite a deep batting order with Zaheer and Nehra to follow.
Of course the problem will remain our bowling with Zaheer and Nehra as reliable in terms of being available as a pair of 1984 Premier Padminis, Harbhajan Singh never having been able to fill Kumble’s shoes in terms of spearheading the attack and the support cast of Ishant Sharma and Munaf Darling does not inspiring much confidence.
However we always know our bowling sucks but figure our batting will compensate for that.
This very well might happen come 2011 but for that every batsman, mentioned above, needs to be fit because there is absolutely no bench strength as Kartik and Rohit Sharma and the series in Zimbabwe have proven conclusively.
Not the most heartening state of affairs leading up to the World Cup I am afraid.