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The Indian team for 2007
by Partab Ramchand
Feb 13, 2007
I have always had this theory or belief that if India could not win the World Cup in 1987 there is not going to be a repeat of 1983. With the tag of defending champions, with the home advantage and with a well balanced team again led by the victorious captain Kapil Dev that certainly represented India’s best chance to win the World Cup. I think they missed the bus that time and I am not sure when they will catch it again.

Not in the Caribbean if you ask me. No, there is nothing basically wrong with the Indian team selected for the World Cup. The selectors have followed a conservative line of thinking by going in for the tried and tested. There is something predictable about the composition of the squad though I must say there is the blend of youth and experience with Sachin Tendulkar being the first Indian to play in five World Cups. Still one can’t help asking the question – could the selectors have done better?

For starters the combination was either going to be nine batsmen and six bowlers or eight batsmen or seven bowlers. By going in for seven bowlers the selectors have made certain that one of the bowlers – if not two – is going to be a mere passenger and at the most may get a game against Bangladesh or Bermuda. One recalls that Ajit Agarkar did not get a game in the 2003 World Cup thanks to the presence of Javagal Srinath, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan. Who is going to be the unlucky bowler this time? Four pace bowlers for South African conditions and five for West Indian conditions? Surely there is something amiss in the thinking and planning.

One of the pace bowlers is going to be the unlucky one but it is almost certain that Anil Kumble is not going to get many opportunities either. He didn’t get many either four years ago playing in just three matches out of the eleven that India played and one can’t see much change in the scenario this time around. Harbhajan Singh is undoubtedly the leading spin bowler and whatever his exploits might have been in the past decade and a half Kumble at best can only be No 2. With the team management almost certain to go ahead with the three seam bowlers and one spinner theory in the playing eleven Kumble is bound to sit out for most of the matches or at best get a game against Bangladesh and Bermuda.

Kumble is obviously past his best. He has gained selection purely on past glory. On current form there is no way he can command a place in the side. In the last six ODIs he has taken six wickets at almost 60 apiece and at an astronomical strike rate of 74. Yes, we all know that he is India’s leading wicket taker in ODIs, that he has figures of six for 12 – the best by an Indian - when he bowled the team to a famous Hero Cup triumph against the West Indies at Calcutta in 1993. But while he continues to be a force to reckon with in Test cricket he does not fit into the scheme of things in the shorter version of the game anymore. He is far from athletic, his batting has deteriorated alarmingly, his fielding is mediocre and as indicated his bowling has seen better days.

It would have been a bold move on the part of the selectors to drop Kumble and pick Ramesh Powar. The off spinner from Mumbai has the record to back him up. In his last eight ODIs he has picked up 16 wickets at an average of 22.50 and a strike rate of fractionally under 29. Compare these figures with Kumble’s over a roughly similar period and what I am trying to convey will be obvious.

In fact Powar should have been an automatic selection – if not in place of Kumble than at least in place of one of the pace bowlers. Let us not forget that Powar was in the ODI squad along with Harbhajan Singh when the Indians were in the West Indies under a year ago and not Kumble. And he did not perform badly either picking up four wickets in the three games he played. Since then he has performed admirably and he must consider himself unlucky to have missed out on a berth that every Indian player covets most of all – a place in the World Cup squad.

Powar is the unluckiest but then a few others might have cause to feel aggrieved – players like Dinesh Mongia, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir, Md Kaif and VVS Laxman who it seems is not destined to play in a World Cup game. But then only 15 can be picked and with the selectors adopting the safe way out there was no way any of these contenders could have found a place.

So is it a good enough combination to win the World Cup? As I said I don’t think so. At best a semifinalist spot but elimination at the Super Eight stage cannot be ruled out. With so little to choose between the eight qualifiers it only needs one good day or one bad day in the field to be assured of a semifinal spot or face elimination. Realistically speaking any of the eight qualifiers have the credentials to enter the semifinals. Yes, India were the surprise finalists last time but one can’t see the team springing a similar surprise this time.

 
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