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 Indias 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
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 cant help asking the question could the selectors have
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 didnt get many either four years ago playing in just three matches
out of the eleven that India played and one cant 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
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 Indias 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 Kumbles 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
dont 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 cant see the team springing a similar surprise this time.