India's 15-man World Cup squad: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
With the 2015 World Cup just over a month away, the Indian selectors picked the 15-man squad that will represent India in the marquee tournament yesterday. The side was on expected lines, more or less, with most of the top performers during the last couple of years making it to the squad. MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin are the only four surviving members from the 2011 World Cup winning squad.
The 15-man squad for the World Cup is as below:
MS Dhoni (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Akshar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Stuart Binny, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane
Though there were doubts about Ravindra Jadeja’s availability for the World Cup owing to a shoulder injury, he has been included in the team because the Indian team’s physiotherapist has vouched for him getting fit on time. In the process, any hopes of a spectacular comeback by Yuvraj Singh were dashed. For his consistent performances in 2014, Akshar Patel has been rewarded with a place in the 15-member squad.
As far as the bowling department is concerned, all the four fast bowlers, that have been selected, will be playing their first World Cup. Stuart Binny, with his medium-pace bowling, will add some variety to the pace department. In spite of the fact that the World Cup is going to be played on the fast and bouncy pitches of Australia and New Zealand, the selectors have opted for three spinners in Ashwin, Jadeja and Akshar. There weren’t too many surprises as far as the batting is concerned with most members automatically picking themselves.
Now that we have taken a look at the squad that will be representing India at the marquee event, here’s an analysis of the fifteen in three different facets: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Ambati Rayudu: If there is one man who richly deserved to be in this squad, it was Rayudu. His years of hard work in the domestic circuit have finally paid off, and he will now get to represent his country on the biggest stage of all. The 29-year-old had been earmarked for bigger things ever since his U-19 days. However, owing to his participation in the controversial and now-defunct Indian Cricket League, he had fallen by the wayside. When he finally did get his chance in 2013, he made it count. In fact, he has excelled in whatever limited chances he has got to represent India.
Akshar Patel: The 20-year-old’s selection in the 15-man squad has proved that performance and not age is the essential yardstick for choosing a player. Akshar has played in just 9 ODIs till date. However, each time he has taken the field, he has shown the kind of maturity that is unusual for a 20-year-old and has delivered some really good performances. In his 9 ODIs, he has picked up 14 wickets at an excellent average of 20.28 and a miserly economy rate of 4.49. He is also pretty handy with the bat and can hit the odd long ball.
Ravindra Jadeja: Many fans of the Indian team will have endured a few sleepless nights last week when they would have heard of Ravindra Jadeja’s unavailability for the upcoming World Cup. Though he has been one of the most trolled members of the Indian team in recent times, there is no doubt that ‘Sir Jadeja’ is a big match player. In the past, there have been several instances such as the 2013 Champions Trophy when Jadeja has risen to the occasion and made it count. The news of his speedy recovery and his inclusion in the team will, therefore, have come as a huge sigh of relief for both the Indian team and its fans.
MS Dhoni - The most experienced skipper: This is one area where India have a significant advantage as compared to the other teams. In Dhoni, the Men in Blue have a stable leader who has been at the helm of the ODI team since 2007. Moreover, he led the Indian team to its second World Cup victory in the previous edition and knows exactly what is required to win the ultimate prize in cricket.
Lack of experience in the fast bowling department: All the four pacemen in the Indian team will be playing their first ever World Cup. In fact, all four of them have played less than a hundred ODIs. Ishant Sharma, with 75 matches under his belt, is the most experienced fast bowler and, thereby, expected to lead the pack. This tells a story in itself as Ishant has never really firmly cemented his place in the team.
Yes, there certainly is a lot of variety in the fast bowling department. However, there is a clear lack of depth as compared to the 2011 World Cup squad. Zaheer Khan, who was India’s pace spearhead in the previous World Cup, had played 182 matches prior to the World Cup. More importantly, before 2011, he had the vital experience of playing in two World Cups. In fact, each of Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel and S Sreesanth, the other 3 pacers in the 2011 squad, had had the experience of playing in at least one World Cup before 2011.
No backup wicketkeeper-batsman for Dhoni: Given that he is one of the most overworked players in world cricket today, there should have been a backup wicketkeeper-batsman for Dhoni. Especially, in a tournament as important as the World Cup, it is best advised not to take any chances. Yes, there is the option of Rayudu deputizing for the Indian skipper. However, he is just a stopgap gloveman who keeps wickets for his franchise in the IPL. There was the option of picking Robin Uthappa who had a stellar year in 2014. The selectors, however, preferred going for an additional all-rounder rather than having someone as a backup for the Indian skipper.
Stuart Binny: This surely has to be the most baffling move by the five “wise men” of Indian cricket. Yes, India has missed a fast bowling all-rounder since a very long time. Binny, however, is in no way India’s answer to this problem. Except for that brilliant spell against minnows Bangladesh, the 30-year-old hasn’t done anything noteworthy in whatever opportunities he has got. In fact, if that spell is taken out of the equation, Binny has picked up a mere 3 wickets in 5 games at an average of almost 38 and an economy rate of 5.38. These are in no way the kind of numbers that warrant a place in a squad for the World Cup.
His batting numbers have been all the more disappointing, having scored a mere 40 runs in his 6 outings at a paltry average of 13.33. Considering the fact that his role as a batsman is that of a pinch-hitter, his strike rate of 63.49 is way below what is required from him. Moreover, if it was an all-rounder that the selectors wanted, they could have picked a wicketkeeper-batsman who would have served as a backup option for Dhoni. Also, given the kind of form that Yuvraj Singh has been in the Ranji Trophy this season, they could have opted for him. Given the fact that he was the Man-of-the-Tournament in the previous edition, the Punjab all-rounder knows exactly what it takes to win the coveted trophy.
A well-balanced, expected squad
Barring the surprise inclusion of Binny, the squad doesn’t have too many surprises. A major chunk of these players will be playing their first World Cup. This is the kind of opportunity that they must have dreamt of when they started taking cricket seriously. Now, it’s up to them to grab this opportunity with both hands and make full use of it, so that they can prove it to the world that they belong to the highest pedestal.
This is also a wonderful opportunity for a certain “Captain Cool”. Now that he has retired from Tests, he can focus all his energies on the limited-overs formats and come up with newer, more refreshing ideas. He also has a point to prove to his detractors who have been after him ever since India’s sorry overseas phase started in 2011. What better way to silence them than winning cricket’s most coveted trophy in a country with one of the most testing conditions to play cricket in.
To end this piece, I’d like to dedicate a few lines from one of Eminem’s most famous songs, ‘Lose Yourself’, for the young guns of the 15-man Indian squad:
Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo