Thursday, January 23, 2014

Is time running out???

The recent losses of India in the ODI’s (0-2 to SA, down 0-2 to NZ already) are not going well with the followers. I’m surprised fans are getting impatient sooner compared to the tolerance exhibited when India was clearly on downward spiral for a prolonged duration in the longer format. By no means, I’m backing India’s losses now. At the same time, impatience of fans is understandable. There is not much time left before the World Cup 2015.

Looking at the FTP schedule, India has 3 more ODI’s at NZ, minimum of 4 ODI’s in the Asia Cup at Bangladesh, 5 ODI’s at England, probably 5 more ODI’s at Australia too. Roughly 20 ODI’s before the World Cup of which only 13 ODI’s (played at NZ, England, Australia) can be termed meaningful preparation. Dhoni made it very clear that he is going to lead India in the 2015 World Cup.

The questions that hamper are…
Is his army good to defend the title?
If not, who are the weak links?
Can these weak links get better with tutoring time?
If not, do we have enough time to bring new players and groom them?

Let the introspection begin…

There are definitely some questionable places in the side. So, let’s start with the OUTS.

If a player like Dhawan needs more time to settle in the side, it is understandable. But not Raina!!! Raina has been with the Indian side for little more than 5 years, played about 200 ODIs, played every condition, played every opponent, played almost in every possible slot, but still his batting is found wanting. Except being an outstanding fielder and a utility bowler, there is not too much in favor of Raina. I think by end of this NZ series (if he does not come up with stupendous + consistent performance with the bat from here), he will be shown the door. It is not only my personal opinion; the public noise is also getting louder on Raina’s ouster. Yuvi is a better alternative than Raina. I pretty much know Yuvi is never out of the equation. I’m just trying to compare apples to apples. If we start looking for Raina like players, may be Sehwag is handy. Sehwag can be useful bowler, better bat than Raina and of course an awful fielder. However, India does not need the Sehwag with the current attitude. Raina will/should be out.

Ishant Sharma
He is losing his pace, failing to discomfort batsman (leave alone picking wickets) and getting clobbered. It is only a matter of time before Aaron/Yadav or someone else seals his spot. Ishanth will be out.

May be In - May be Out

Ashwin has about 75 ODI’s under his belt and he has been a regular feature since the World Cup 2011. I’m not sure if Ashwin has it in him to be in the ODI side as a lead spinner. Definitely his performances in the recent ODI’s (abroad) have been very ordinary. Break thru’s does not seem to be coming. His batting style does not have the wherewithal to produce low order cameos. At the same time, India does not have too many choices for the role of lead off spinner. Either India should go back to Harbhajan or introduce Parvez Rasool sooner than later. From the context of running short out of time, luck may favor Ashwin’s persistence. But I think, Rasool should be ventured in the Asia cup and persisted in England Series to evaluate between Ashwin and Rasool for the World Cup 2015. So, Ashwin May be In, May be Out.

Shikar Dhawan
I know Test performances are not a metric to evaluate a player in ODI format. Dhawan was definitely found wanting in the Test Series at South Africa. And the shadow of failure in the South Africa Test series seems to be rubbing him in the ODI’s at NZ too. Again these are very early years in his career and it is only fair he gets a decent run. In the current political cloud, the odds of Dhawan featuring in the World Cup 2015 appears bright than Gambir. However, I’m personally not convinced with both of them. Pujara could be a better alternate compared to Dhawan or Gambir in alien condition. He has the appetite to bat long and possibly can be a better partner to suit the stroke players like Kohli, Yuvi and Dhoni to follow. Even a youth like Unmukt Chand is not a bad idea, especially after following the rise of De Kock. Shikar Dhawan, May be out.

Rohit Sharma
He is another player consistently annoying public for failing to live up to reputation. The latest joke running rounds, Pappu can’t bat sala!!! No doubt he is a talent and scoring double century is no joke by any means. It is very obvious Dhoni want him to replace Sehwag. And, Sharma has all the ingredients to replace Sehwag. However, talent is different, performance is different. Since his partner Shikar Dhawan is also not doing any great, Rohit Sharma is likely to get an extended run up. In all probability, he will feature in the World Cup and these 20 odd ODI’s will be considered as a tutoring time. Even though public sentiment is largely against Rohit Sharma, he May be In.

B Kumar
Swing is King. It is interesting to see how he performs in NZ and England. Except P Kumar and Zaheer Khan, there are not many in the circuit to challenge him. B Kumar May be In, May be Out.


R Jadeja
Sirji has proved with his bowling as why he should be in a line up. However the all-round tag associated with him is the only concern. As an all-rounder he should be out. But, the public has started seeing him as a bowler these days. Sirji, is in.

Rahane, finally break into the XI. He looked good in the second ODI against NZ until he got out. The reminder of the ODI’s before the World Cup will be the nurturing time. Rahane, In.  

Going into the World Cup, India need a fast bowling all-rounder. There are not many choices in store except Irfan Pathan and Roger Binny. Unfortunately Irfan Pathan is caught up in the tussle of becoming an all-rounder Vs bowler. If Irfan Pathan wants to play as a bowler, the odds of him making the cut in the side is very limited. Again, we are yet to see Binny. I just wish one of them become that all-rounder India badly needs for this World Cup campaign. And for that to happen, the least one of them should make a head start. We should see more of Binny from here. It is important Binny turn into that Robin Singh.

With Raina & Ishanth clearly marked out, Ashwin & Dhawan classified as May be outs, what are the options for replacements?

Both openers (Sharma (may be in), Dhawan (may be out)) barely making an impact, there is a good chance we should see a new face. My personal bet would be Pujara, but it is not a bad idea to venture a youth like Unmukt Chand. I’m not sure if India has time to try both Pujara and Chand in the space of 1 year. Odds are good Chand should start fresh post World Cup. So, Pujara is likely to don the role of opener soon.

Also it is not a bad idea to venture somebody like Sanju Samson or Vijay Zol in the mix for the World Cup for a middle order slot. Again for that India should start playing Rayudu before eliminating him from the equation. And for that to happen, fall of Raina is imminent.

I feel Aaron, Yadav, Pandey (one of the fast bowlers) is surely making the cut ahead of Ishant Sharma.

We should see few changes coming soon.

Here is my preference pool for every slot.

Pujara, Sharma, Dhawan, U Chand & Sehwag (remote possibility)







B Kumar/Zaheer Khan

No 10

No 11

I guess all those Samsons, Chands, Zols, H Singhs, Babas are a feature post World Cup when a new captain takes possession.

Bottom line: Time is essence. Patience is virtue.

Cricket Lover

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