You are at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai watching the World Cup finale, Team India needs 9 runs of the last over to topple the three times running champion Australians, and Sachin scores the winnings runs of the fifth or the last ball of the over, on his way to his 100th international ton……sounds more like a dream, right? Well, it could very well be a reality, come March 2011. World’s top 14 cricketing nations would battle for the ultimate glory in the sub-continent and Australia sure start as hot favorites as defending champions. Winning this tournament is not just a dream of billions of Indian fans but also an ultimate reward anticipated by all it players. It also a desire, that Sachin himself has carried throughout his career and expressed openly.
After stunning the whole world in 1983, this crown has eluded to the nation of billion fans. Indian team has come with-in a striking distance on three more occasions by making it to the final four and once even closer by being runners-up. The history may not be on their side though. The last two occasions when they hosted this mega event, they started as one of the favorites but crashed out in the semi-finals. This time around they have a few incentives: to erase the sour memories of the last edition and this being the last world cup for the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.
2003 was the only other occasion (after 1983) when they reached the finals of this supreme competition. That campaign started off with non-inspiring win over Holland which was followed by devastating defeats against Australia. The team pulled their socks up, after that, and went on a dream run of eight straight wins, until they crashed into Kangaroos in the finals. Six members of that memorable squad could very well make it to the 2011 edition and would be keen to get arms around the coveted trophy. The billions of fans have now been waiting for almost 28 years for their men to repeat the history.
Last week, I wrote a blog about the selection committee and how I wait for the new one. The crucial job for the new panel would be select right squad that would bring the glory home for us. As I stated earlier; six members from 2003 squad , would feature for sure: Sachin, Viru, Bhajji, ZK, Nehra, and Yuvraj. Yuvi may be sidelined for fitness-n-form for now but is too talented to stay out for long and I sincerely hope that he comes back with a bang, just like Viru and ZK did in 2006. MSD seems a certain choice as captain after he regained everyone’s faith with the Asia cup triumph. The four other spots for batsmen look pretty much decided with Gambhir, Raina, Kohli, and Sharma. The other three bowlers would require team to have 2 more seamers and an additional spinner: Praveen Kumar and Pragyan Ojha seem automatic choices, leaving, only two spots open in a 15 men squad: a seam bowler and an all-rounder.
The contenders for medium pace options are very scarce: Ishant, Sreesath, RP Singh, and Munaf. I would be very tempted to lean towards Ishant for his ability to move the ball of the deck. RP could be handy as well. Munaf loses out on fitness and Sreesanth carries too much baggage. For the all-rounder category, sadly we don’t have many choices either. There is Ravindra Jadeja, also hard-hitting Yusuf Pathan, and his, talented but lean on form, younger brother Irfan. If the need is for a game changer at #7 then no one can match the abilities of elder of the two Pathans. If strategy is to play two specialist spinners, then the younger Pathan is a useful third seamer who’s more than handy with his bat. Jadeja is very economical in his left arm bowling, however has not played even one defining knock in thirty some outings.
Sachin has 93 international tons at this point and between now and the World Cup he has 11 more tests and at least 12 more ODIs to play. This should provide him plenty of opportunity to get close to the magical number of 100 tons, if not reach it already, prior to the mega-event in March 2011. If the selectors pick the right squad, and then if the unit perform to its potential, the team truly stands chance of converting the dream into a reality.
Suggested Squad: MS Dhoni (C), V Sehwag (VC), SR Tendulkar, G Gambhir, Y Singh, R Sharma, V Kohli, S Raina, Y Pathan/I Pathan/R jadeja, Z Khan, H Singh, A Nehra, P Kumar, P Ojha, I Shrama/ RP Singh
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav