In a country like India, everyone has an opinion, especially when it comes to cricket, the national passion. The arduous eight-phase election has started, but the proverbial biggie- the ODI cricket world cup is what will capture the imaginations of this sports crazy country in the coming days. The country will ‘Bleed Blue’ again. The action is almost a month and a half away, but the heated debates in the sitting rooms have surely started.
Who should be the Chosen Ones? Who should be in the Indian squad of fifteen for the World Cup? World cup teams have always been a hot topic for discussion. Remember the 2007 T20 squad when we had MSD as a rookie captain and without the ‘Holy Trinity’ (Sachin, Saurav, Dravid)? Or Dinesh Mongia as a no.3 in the 2003 team? Sometimes, non-selection makes as much news. VVS Laxman, anyone?
Firstly the World Cup format this time is the best as far as I am concerned. The ten best teams, playing each other head to head in a round robin format to decide the top four and then knock-outs to follow. Consistency will be the name of the game. Luck can win you a match, or two maybe, but won’t be the savior in the long run in this format. The cup starts in May end and then conditions may help the swing bowlers to begin with but over the course of the series, it will get drier and the spinners will come into play. You would need the hitters for the placid wickets but the accumulators will be gold dust if the par score is 250. So, basically you need great balance in the squad of fifteen- to adapt to different situations.
So, let’s start…
There are around eleven names who select themselves, so let’s get them out of the way first..
1) Rohit- white ball demi-God..
2) Dhawan- outstanding record in England and long format series
3) Kohli- God!
4 or 5) MSD- may not be the captain but still cool..
6) Kedar- the finisher and the man with the proverbial golden arm
7) Hardik- just let the game do the talking man. Ok?
8) Kuldeep- Chinaman bowlers are rare. Batsmen still can’t pick him
9) Chahal- completes the Kul-Cha pair
10) Bumrah- the best white ball fast bowler today
11) Shami- the most improved Indian player in the last four months, across formats
12) Bhuvi- swing maetro who’s lost a bit of momentum of late, but still a shoo in
So who are the other four?
Let’s go by positions… We need a middle order batsman, a back-up opener, one (or two) all-rounder backup, with one more possible pacer/spinner back up. To go with these we also need a keeper back up.
For the opener back up, I will go with KL Rahul. He is a sublime player when in touch. He can slot at no.4 also if needed. He is accelerating quite nicely in the IPL if that’s a yardstick.
For the middle order spot, I will choose two players- Pant to be the enforcer and back up keeper. He will be in my eleven if it’s a 300+ par score pitch. I will also pick Vijay Shankar to be the more solid no.4/5 and a possible back up for Hardik if he pulls up injured.
My other spinner back-up doubling as an all-rounder will be Jadeja. With his electric fielding and quick runs at the death, he will be a great asset to have in the team.
I just don’t see any good pacer back up option and with two pacers playing with Hardik, we can start with Bhuvi as the extra anyways. Rayudu is the current no.4 but doesn’t inspire too much confidence. He misses out, as does Dinesh Kartik. DK is a T20 legend, but feel we can’t trust him to take us over the line over a long twenty over plus duration in a chase.
So here’s my fifteen…
Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli, MSD, Pant, Kedar, Hardik, Kuldeep, Shami, Chahal, Bumrah.
Back ups: KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, Jadeja, Bhuvi.
I think it’s a solid line up which can cover most bases. Pant can start but Vijay Shankar can step into the middle order if needed. KL can play if one of the openers get injured. Two of the three fast bowlers can rotate as it is a long tournament. We can play the combination of Hardik/ Chahal but if needed Bhuvi/ Jadeja will do just as well.
To me, England starts as the favourites with their long list of match winners. You can never rule out Australia with their recent resurgence. And God knows which side of the bed the Pakistanis will wake up in. But with the above squad, I think we have a decent shot at it.
So here’s my ‘Men in Blue’. What’s yours?