On the 17th of January 2011, the BCCI announced the final 15, representing India in the tournament of all tournaments in the game of cricket, the ODI World Cup. This Cup seems to have been in Aussie possession for too long and now that the little urn has gone away for a while it seems, the World Cup is the only other Cricket Memorabilia which the Aussie's seem to care about, and it's about time someone took that away as well. But who, is the question, everyone is asking themselves. Australia are chased closely by India, Sri Lanka and South Africa in the ODI Rankings (if that is any indication) and it's not inconceivable to imagine that England and maybe even Pakistan can pose tough questions of the current champions.
The team announced did not surprise too many, barring maybe the omission of Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha and the inclusion of Piyush Chawla out of the blue, the team consists of:
There are a large number of spinners in this team, both specialist and part time, and considering that the matches are going to be played in the Indian Sub-continent, the performance of the spinners could be one of the deciding factors during the course of the tournament. In one day internationals, the Indian spinners, especially the part time spinners, like Yuvraj, Raina and Pathan do exceedingly well, especially within Indian conditions. A problem which may occur in team selection, would be whether to pick 3 specialist seamers along with Harbhajan Singh because we have enough variety in the part time spin department, in which case R. Ashwin and Piyush Chawla may never see the inside of a cricket field, other than to bring a bottle of water across, or would they pick 2 specialist seamers as well as 2 specialist spinners.
Another interesting factor this time around, is that the current Indian team set-up, has only 4 slots available within the squad of 15. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Zaheer walk into this team without any issues. The selection variables come up in the form of, whether to play 2 specialist batsmen like Raina and Kohli or to play Pathan as a bowling all-rounder at No. 7. If the selectors decide to go with Pathan, it then becomes the question of whether to pick Raina or Kohli. Raina has played well in the past few years for India, but has been found wanting against the short ball, in tests as well as ODI's. Virat Kohli on the other hand seems to be in a rich vein of form, and seems to have shed some of his earlier bad habits and turned his game around. It will be a tough call for the selectors considering Raina is a perennial favorite of MS Dhoni and is a handy part time off-spinner apart from being a fantastic fielder. His potential to contribute in a game is beyond question and would take an extremely bullish and courageous selector or captain for that matter, to drop him from the playing 11. I guess the answer to this question only lies with Dhoni's astrologist.
The question of which seamers to play along with Zaheer Khan may be an issue as none of the other three seamers have really overshadowed the other, whether they pick Munaf, Nehra or Kumar to accompany Zaheer could be dependent on the nature of the wicket as well as how well either of them is bowling in the warm-up matches just before the tournament begins. Whether Zaheer and the other seamers can reverse swing the old ball will be crucial as well and could pose many a problem to batsmen during the tournament.
Another problem which India face is that they do not have an all-rounder, in the mould of Kallis or Shane Watson, but that may not have too much of a role to play in a sub-continental world cup. All this being said, this Indian team in my view, has an excellent mix of experienced cricketers and young cricketers, last seen maybe in the team of 2003. Can they go one better than that team, hopefully in April and not before that, we will know. I for one, can't wait to find out.