It’s quite difficult to watch cricket anymore. Ever since the Lalit Modi-N Srinivasan duo decided to turn cricket into third-rate baseball (read IPL), it’s almost impossible to keep an account of who is playing whom, when and where.
But then, a 50-over Cricket World Cup doesn’t come every quarter. So there is likely to be a certain buzz. As Ravi Shastri often says, cricket will be the winner, but one wonders, does India really stand a chance in this World Cup?
The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) has actually given the Indian Team an exceptional advantage. But it seems to have been frittered away. The team had a lot of time to acclimatise to Australian conditions – four test matches, a few one-days and warm-up matches as well. One wonders if any other defending champion has had such an advantage ever. Our top batsmen and bowlers got at least 10-16 chances to prove themselves. Yet, the results are far from convincing.
The bogey of ‘India is a better one-day team than test team’ has been woefully exposed in the one-day matches Down Under as well. And this is primarily because of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and BCCI’s style of functioning.
This team has talent. But talent alone doesn’t win World Cups, or South Africa should have won quite a few. Besides talent, it requires temperament, experience and yes, oodles of luck. In the first three talent-temperament-experience corner, only
Dhoni and Virat Kohli qualify.
Ajinkya Rahane could be the trump card. Rohit Sharma is very talented, but mostly in Indian conditions, Dhawan’s moustache twirling has reduced since he reached Australian shores and Suresh Raina is batting less, belting the ball more. Some like Ravindra Jadeja are still finding their feet. For some strange reason, Yuvraj Singh, Murali Vijay or Sanju Samson did not get a place in the team. Why would Dhoni or the BCCI do so?
Vijay was a necessity in a team which does not have a rock-solid Rahul Dravid. Samson, besides being a wicket keeper, is a great batting talent. And Yuvraj should have walked into the team even at the cost of Raina. For Jadeja is not the next Yuvraj Singh. With 6 fifties in 93 matches, he is no competition to someone with 13 centuries and 51 fifties in 293 matches. Stuart Binny is still largely an unknown quantity.
Our bowlers do not provide much confidence either. Sample this: in one-dayers, R Ashwin, the most experienced bowler in the team, has 120 wickets in 88 matches. In the list of fastest 100 wickets, he is somewhere down, having taken as many as 77 matches to achieve the feat. Sir Jadeja has played more matches than him but taken fewer wickets. All the other bowlers– Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma and Akshar Patel– have played less than 50 matches.
So, the onus lies heavily on batsmen to chase or set up huge totals. And one of the three – Rahane, Kohli or Dhoni — has to consistently contribute and do so heavily. The rest will have to chip in as well. It will be a very tough one, perhaps worse than 1987, when we at least reached the semi-finals.