It is five and a half months to the World Cup. That might seem a long time in cricket. It is four and a half months to when the teams have to be announced. That might seem a long time away too. And yet it isn’t. As I write this, with summer having gone as dramatically as India’s batting form, there are four games to play in England and five in India before that team gets picked. The five in India won’t tell us anything.
It is reasonable to say, therefore, that these games are critical in deciding who goes to Australia to defend that title. But look at it differently. There is no genuine test after these games (and this is not meant to be disrespectful to the West Indies just the fact that the conditions are so completely different) and so you are looking, really, at one person here and another there. What Rahul Dravid said is true, this team must start winning a few games.
And so it might be a good time to look at what a squad to the World Cup could be if picked now. I am hoping it will be a squad of 16 because it is a long tournament; you need to play 8 games to get to the final.
The biggest change from 2011 is that you need to play five full bowlers in Australia. In India, you could get by with four and use batsmen who bowl a bit of spin to complete the quota. And so India had Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan but it was Yuvraj Singh’s bowling style, so suited to the conditions, that gave Dhoni the option of playing seven batsmen. If India had a Yuvraj equivalent who bowled seam up, you could have explored the seven batsmen situation again. And that probably means you have to err on the side of picking an extra bowler. And hope that at least two of your bowlers can bat well enough to win you a close game.
I believe, given India’s major problem with end overs bowling, you will need to take five seamers of whom three will play. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma are probably two of those and hopefully Umesh Yadav will bowl well enough in England to encourage the selectors that he should be the third. Look at who else is available. On this tour, Mohit Sharma, Mohd Shami and Dhawal Kulkarni, and back in India, Varun Aaron. While Bhuvneshwar can contribute a bit, none of them really bat which minimises Dhoni’s options. That is why Stuart Binny is in this side, as a batting all-rounder. And continued…