I have been procrastinating. I should have posted this as soon as they announced the team, but maybe it is a good thing that I did not. I got some time to think about the team and here are my thoughts.
First of all, in my books, the following players (based on current and recent past form) select themselves:
1. Saurav Ganguly
2. Sachin Tendulkar
3. Zaheer Khan
4. Rahul Dravid
5. MS Dhoni
The following were almost certain and my reasons for them not being 100%:
6. Ajit Agarkar: Seems to be a bit inconsistent, but has been in form recently
7. Harbajan Singh: He should actually not be in the team, but has a great vote of confidence from the captain apparently
8. Anil Kumble: He should be in the team for sure, but he has no faith from anyone except the captain
9. S Sreesanth: Has been in good form in the tests, but has been completely off in the one day games. Fundamentally he is good enough to be considered a lock.
10. Munaf Patel: He is a very good one day bowler but his recent injury drama in South Africa made me re-think my position on his being a lock.
11. Yuvraj Singh: He would be a lock before his bad injury layoff, but now I have my doubts but from the last game of the Sri Lanka series he seems to have come back to form.
So in my books, there are 11 players who almost certainly are selected in the team. 4 batsmen, 1 wicket-keeper and 6 bowlers including 2 different spinners and at least 3 part time bowlers.
What’s obviously missing is a good opener in case the team decides to stick with pushing Sachin down to the middle order. Robin Uthapa has been in good form at the top and would be included. So that makes it 5 batsmen, 1 wicket-keeper and 6 bowlers.
Now, there’s got to be a couple of middle order batsmen and maybe 1 extra bowler.
In Dinesh Karthick, we get two for the price of one. We get a decent bat and a decent backup wicket-keeper. I would imagine he would be playing some games and will not be a pure passenger on the tour.
So it comes down to one middle order batsman and 1 extra bowler needed. Given that Sachin and Yuvraj can spin the ball part-time, and given the experience of Anil Kumble and the mythical guile that Bajji brings, a spinner would not be needed. Ramesh Powar, sorry, but there is just no space for you in the team. Blame it on Bajji.
Among the pace bowlers, having Pathan at bowler #5 is quite an embarrassment of riches, if he gets back to any sort of form. And because no one else like RP Singh or VRV Singh has played enough in the recent past, I think Pathan would become the default choice.
Which brings me to the last spot – of a middle order bat. There’s a lot of talent which can take the spot – Kaif, Raina, VVS, Sehwag. My choice would have been VVS Laxman, but I think Dilip Vengsarkar just does not believe in his fielding ability. VVS is the type of guy who can come in at 101-1 or 14-3 and play his normal game in either situation and score 60 in 65 balls without any pressure at all.
So my team would match the selectors’ choice except for two:
3. VVS (instead of Sehwag)
9. Powar (instead of Bajji)
This team is not going to be the best fielding team without Kaif, Raina and maybe even Karthick in the close-in field but it is good enough to win the match with bat and ball.
I do believe we are still one batsman short and maybe instead of Pathan, we could choose an extra batsman. But I do believe defense win championships and it is better to load up the team with backup bowlers just in case there is an injury or two, than to go with high class batting backups which may not be enough to win matches.
If the team gets its chemistry together, I have confidence that they would make it to the semis. My thoughts on India’s and others’ winning chances in a later post.