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Are India ready for the ODI World Cup?

Last Updated: Friday, July 2, 2010 - 00:00

Biswajit Jha

After India’s thumping win in the Asia Cup final, people of this cricket crazy nation are busy discussing India’s chances in the upcoming ODI World Cup that takes place in the sub-continent in just eight months.

Can Dhoni’s men recreate the magic of ‘83s summer and match the feat of Kapil’s Devils this time?
A casual look at Team India does inspire confidence… However, appearances can be deceptive. Before the Asia Cup victory, India, despite being the number two ranked ODI team in the world, have never done well in any of the major ODI tournaments after the World Cup of 2003 where they, under the inspiring captaincy of India’s best ever skipper Sourav Ganguly, reached the finals only to be beaten by Aussies.
But the Asia Cup win has really changed the equation in India’s favour. Critics, who were not taking India seriously after their lackluster performances in recent times, have given the team a good chance to win the 2011 World Cup.

Despite the Asia Cup title, the overall performance of the Indian team has been patchy and inconsistent over the years. Consistency has been a major problem for this team led by the super-cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

One day they might look to be the best team in the world, but on the very next, their performance is as insipid and uninspiring as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They may beat the Australians, Sri Lanka or the Pakistanis with consummate ease, but find it utmost difficult to outsmart minnows or the out-of-form outfits.
India, despite being the cricketing hotspot, is still a far way from achieving the mentality of a top class, ruthless cricketing super power like Australia. Our IPL fetches players from all over the world, but we fail to establish our supremacy in the cricketing world. Our case is the same as England’s in football. We can create magic with our IPL but in the international arena, we are still not on top.

The irony of the predicament is that the inconsistency is seen in our batting department, which is said to be the best in the world. Our batsmen have always been a joyous sight. The skill, the craft, the power Indians employ while batting is what attracts millions to the auditoriums.

Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, M S Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma form one of the strongest batting sides of the world. The bench-strength is also promising with the likes of Dinesh Karthik, M Vijay, Saurav Tiwary and Manish Pandey looking exciting.
With the World Cup in sub-continent, it’s expected that our batsmen will have no problems in countering pace and bounce.
Though the bowlers won us the Asia Cup final, batting remains our main strength. We may have hit poor form against Sri Lanka in a league match, but our batting was more or less consistent in the Asia Cup. Let’s not forget that we won the Asia Cup without the service of two of our top batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
Unlike T20 cricket, ODI cricket will provide batsmen the freedom of seeing-off some hostile pace bowling spells from Taits, Bollingers or Akhtars. If Indian willow warriors perform consistently, they can surely lead India to another World Cup after a painfully long gap of 27 years.

Though Indian bowlers, especially the pacemen, were on cue in the final, it’s the bowling itself that remains India’s main cause of concern. The same problem of consistency comes to haunt us time and again in the bowling department. Apart from Zaheer Khan, no other fast bowler is a consistent performer. No one doubts the ability of Ashish Nehra or Praveen Kumar, but they are not so effective on unhelpful sub-continental pitches. It’s not everyday that they would get assistance from pitched like the one in Dambulla that helped them wreck the strong Sri Lankan batting.

India need to create a pool of five or six fast bowlers from where they can pick three or four for the World Cup according to their form and fitness. In that respect, the selection of fast bowling duo of Ishant Sharma and S Sreesanth was a good decision because they are very good bowlers who needed to get their confidence back before the World Cup.
No one would deny the fact that spin would play a major role since the World Cup would be played on sub-continental pitches. The spin department is also not inspiring. Harbhajan Singh is the only spinner we can bank on. Others like Amit Mishra or Pragyan Ojha can’t even remotely be called match-winners. This spin drought would surely hurt India in the World Cup.

Apart from batting and bowling, India have to field superbly to match the Australian or South African standards. In the shorter version of the game, any team can win on the back of their fielding performance. India still are far a inferior fielding side in comparison to Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka or New Zealand.

The search for a good all-rounder is still on ever since Kapil Dev played his last match for India. Time has come for us to admit that we don’t have quality all-rounders in India and its better we make our World Cup strategy knowing this fact and don’t waste our valuable energy in finding that elusive all-rounder in rank and file cricketers. Instead, we have to beef up our strengths and hit the competition like a pile-driver, delivering solid blows rather than jabbing and finding opportunities.

First Published: Friday, July 2, 2010 - 00:00

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