When Team India won the most coveted ICC trophy in 2011, for the second time in its history, this time under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, it was full of players who had a reputation of being match-winners. From Virender Sehwag to Gautam Gambhir, from Yuvraj Singh to Zaheer Khan, all were star performers for ‘Men in Blue’ They proved their mettle to help India become the first country to win a World Cup as hosts. Few other names who were part of the winning squad were Ashish Nehra, Piyush Chawla, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar and Yusuf Pathan.
Now the quadrennial event is back and this time India will be defending their crown and that too outside the sub-continent, in Trans-Tasman nations, where they don’t have a very good track record.
Interestingly, in the current Indian team, only three players, apart from skipper Dhoni – Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin – are among the regulars. It doesn’t mean that Indian team is looking vulnerable; as it’s still among the top teams in limited overs cricket, sitting third in the ODI rankings.
However, at the same time, they are not looking upbeat to defend their title in Australia and New Zealand.
In conditions where ball moves in the air after pitching and bounces a lot, current Indian batting line-up doesn't look a convincing one, which was quite evident, when India visited South Africa and New Zealand last time, where they failed to put up a good show in the ODIs.
Dhoni has batsmen like Kohli and Rahane at his disposal, who have done fairly well in such conditions and would be the backbone of Indian batting line-up during the biggest cricketing carnival. Nevertheless, we are also aware of the fact that, the other two top-order batsmen -- Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan – have been erratic on overseas pitches.
Yes, Suresh Raina is undoubtedly the most valuable asset in the team, and then India have Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin, who are effective with their willows in the death overs.
But even after having a strong batting line up on papers, it would be a different game Down Under where India will lock horns with the teams having a powerful bowling attack like Australia, South Africa and for that matter England and Pakistan.
While thinking about deadly speedsters like Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson, Morne Morkel, we still need a batsman of Sehwag’s attitude, who can push them on the back-foot through counter-attack.
To have all-rounders in the team is always a plus. And India still don’t have a better all-rounder than Yuvraj Singh, the protagonist of last World Cup, who was later rewarded with Man-of-the-Series award for his heroics with bat and ball.
When I see Indian speedsters struggling to give India early breakthroughs with the new ball or hapless to stop the run-flow during the death overs, I want to see Zaheer bowling those tight overs. Creating doubts in batsman’s mind by using his stock balls, slowers ones, cutters and toe crushing Yorkers.
I imagine Robin Uthappa (who has been in outstanding form throughout this season) opening the innings for India, alongside Ajinkya Rahane -- to lay a good platform for Team India to score mammoth totals or to achieve even a challenging total quite convincingly.
I still have a place for Gautam Gambhir in my squad, who looks aggressive on field and has the uncanny ability to hang on the crease and play crucial knocks even after looking ugly and patchy in the beginning, to give his team solidity at the top of the order.
For me, a fully fit Ashish Nehra is still one of the most unplayable bowlers in the world. And most importantly, no one knows better than Dhoni, how and when to use these ageing cricketers with good effect. ‘Captain Cool’ has done it in the past and is very much capable of doing it one more time.
I know I am no one to decide Team India's final squad for the upcoming World Cup, scheduled to take place in February next year. But still, somewhere deep down most of the cricket lovers, enthusiasts, arm-chair critics and even commentators, selectors and former players know that this squad has the best chance of retaining the world champions tag for another four years.
I know selectors have to follow few guidelines; they have to pick players considering their recent forms and have to take care of few choices given by the skipper or recommendation from senior authorities in BCCI. But India have to field their best squad, by putting all egos aside to win the World Cup trophy for the third time in 2015 giving this cricket frenzy nation another chance to rejoice.
Here is my 16-man World Cup squad: MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav/Varun Aaron, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami.