The improbability of the World Cup probables

It’s not too often that the Indian selectors get the equation cent per cent right. Add to it, the confusion reigning in the BCCI ranks, which seems to be more keen on defending its president-in-exile than look after the cricketing affairs.. Amidst this chaos, the Indian selectors have done a remarkable job of picking the 30 probables for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

As expected, most newspapers, news bulletins, and cricket portals are harping on the absence of the class of the triumphant 2011 World Cup squad. So, the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan are making headlines rather than the 30, who’ve been picked.

No doubt the contributions of these men will never be forgotten, but their rapid decline in the last few years, left the selectors with no option but to look to the future. While, a player can be picked from outside the 30 probables, but it’s highly improbable that’ we’ll get to see these men in India colours again. Thanks for the memories guys.

So, the old has been rightly shunned, but the question that really begs is have these guys been replaced? Has the ‘gen next’ of Indian cricket really been given a fair chance, or even a chance?

India has been consistent in ODIs at home, and barring 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, and losing to Sri Lanka in the 2014, T20 World Cup, India hasn’t done anything noteworthy outside the subcontinent. The ODI series win in England did well to hide the wounds of the Tests, but it didn’t really help their World Cup preparations for it were the usual suspects that did the job in England.

THE OPENING CONUNDRUM

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have done well on flat pitches at home, but have been inconsistent when touring. Dhawan hasn’t been at his best since last winter’s home series against the West Indies, while Sharma has been anything but consistent. Ajinkya Rahane, too, has shown flashes of brilliance when filling in as opener, but he’s been disappointing in the middle order. Murali Vijay has just served drinks in ODIs. That begs the questions, have the selectors tried anyone from the probables?

NO! A grand no. Despite his good showing in domestic cricket, Robin Uthappa wasn’t considered until an odd game in the 5-match ODI series against Sri Lanka.

MIDDLE ORDER MUDDLE

India’s ODI success is largely due to the emphatic efforts of Virat Kohli and the skipper MS.Dhoni. Just look into the stats, and they will tell you that when Dhoni and Virat score, India wins. And vice versa when they’ve failed collectively.. Rahane and Karthik were disappointing in the middle order. And barring that  hundred in the third ODI against Sri Lanka, Ambati Rayadu hasn’t done anything of repute, despite getting the numerous opportunities.

Suresh Raina is the skipper’s favourite, that perhaps explains that despite his inconsistency in the last 2 years, he still has been persisted with. He was woeful on the tours to South Africa and New Zealand and was subsequently dropped from the side for Asia Cup. It was only his exploits in the inconsequential Champions League T20, that brought him back into the side for the T20 World Cup. He did well there, and then scored his first hundred in 4 years in the second ODI in England. Since then, he hasn’t scored by tons, but made valuable contributions in the truncated series with West Indies and the 5 ODIs against Sri Lanka. However, his record in Australia and New Zealand needs remarkable improvement.

Barring Kohli and Dhoni, none of India’s batsmen can take their place for granted. The other men tried in the middle order haven’t inspired much confidence. You were right in dropping Yuvraj, but have you been able to replace him at no.5? Rayadu, Rahane are certainly not the answer. And have you tried testing your gen-next batsmen?
A grand no. Despite being the top-scorer in Ranji Trophy last season, poor Kedar Jadhav was given just one game to prove his mettle. That too an inconsequential one against the Sri Lankans,. He failed, scoring just 20, and perhaps that would mean the end of his World Cup dreams. The selectors though shouldn’t forget his exploits in the quadrangular List A tournament in Australia, where he scored heavily. In most other countries, Jadhav would have walked into the Test side, but Indian selectors did the unthinkable by choosing a Test flop Suresh Raina for the Tests in Australia.

Manoj Tiwary has always been hailed as a special talent, but injuries have marred his career. His inconsistency in IPL, too, hasn’t helped his national cause. He did well in the A team tour to Australia, and he was the top scorer in the  recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy. Sadly, like Jadhav, he too hasn’t found a place in the Test side thereby reducing his chances of playing in the Tri series.

He gave a glimpse of his talent with a sparkling ton in IPL 2 semi-final, whilst playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore. In the following auction, he was snapped up by Pune Warriors for million bucks. Back then critics felt that he would be weighed down by the price tag and the expectations. Ravi Shastri, now team India director, had even mocked at journalists saying, “Why do you think that Manish Pandey will not play for India?

As haughty as you were Mr.Shastri, the truth is that, that Pandey is yet to play any international game for the senior side. Despite his consistent run in the last few domestic games, Pandey would never be in contention for the final 15 squad for the World Cup.

Barring this trio, none of the other middle order batsmen in domestic cricket have been consistent. Thus the selectors couldn’t look beyond the trio of Pandey, Jadhav, and Tiwary, to prop up the malfunctioning middle order. Sadly, none of the three were really tried out by the selectors.
ALL ROUNDER HUNT GOES ON

With Irfan Pathan having past his prime, the Indian selectors were faced with the perennial problem of finding a genuine all-rounder. And with the cupboard being bare, the selectors shifted their focus to a bits-n-pieces player, Stuart Binny. His selection in the Test side to England raised brows, especially with his father Roger Binny being one of the selectors, but Binny showed some promise in the match-saving 73 in the first Test against England. He bowled steadily but without any luck. Surprisingly, he was dropped after failing in the second Test. And didn’t get any opportunity in the ODI series. He returned to the side playing few games against Sri Lanka where he picked some important wickets. If the likes of Rayadu, and Rahane were given ample opportunities, then Stuart Binny certainly deserved more chances.
BOWLING, A WELCOME ‘CHANGE’

Never before has Indian fast bowling stock looked full. Shami, Aaron, Yadav, and Ishant Sharma are all capable of hitting maximum speed. Add to it, the swing and skill of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India now have an attack that can compete with the best teams, at least on paper. A careful insight into their performances will reveal that barring Bhuvneshwar, the other are notorious for blowing hot and cold. Nevertheless, these 5 paceman are our best bet to retain the title.
NO SPIN IN THE TALE

The door has been shut on Harbhajan, but has Ashwin lived up to his billing? He failed to get a single wicket on the tour to South Africa and New Zealand.  He was there in India’s last tour to Australia, where he was found wanting on the truer surfaces. He regained some form during the T20 World Cup, but his ODI form has been poor. Barring a three-wicket hall in one of the games in England, Ashwin has been largely disappointing.  His average fielding and defensive batting makes him a liability to the ODI side.

Like Aswhin, Jadeja too has struggled in South Africa and New Zealand. And his recent dip in form has seen him lose his place to Axar Patel.

So, while Jadeja faces competition, Ashwin enjoys a charmed life. For the Indian selectors haven’t tested much the likes of Pervez Rasool, Kuldeep Yadav and Karn Sharma. Amit Mishra has often outshone both Jadeja and Ashwin, when the trio came together in the Asia Cup. But his poor fielding skills have gone against him. That he wasn’t picked for the Australia Tests, is a testimony to the fact that the selectors don’t have much faith in him.

But with the selectors not giving adequate opportunities to the Rasools, the Kuldeeps, and the Karn Sharmas, India are going to the World Cup with a huge question mark over their quality of spinners on the truer surfaces of Australia and New Zealand.

The young guns would be pleased to make it to the provisionary 30-man squad, but their joy ends right there. For Kedar Jadhav, Manoj Tiwary, Manish Pandey, Kuldeep Yadav, Pervez Rasool and Stuart Binny know that having missed the bus for the Test team, and with the final World Cup squad being announced before the Tri series commences, their probability of making the World Cup squad looks highly IMPROBABLE.

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