Its six months to go for the World Cup; a long time if you are preparing for the conduct of the Commonwealth Games,not quite so if you are looking at the best possible combination to put together for the biggest cricket event in the world.
Coaches and selectors would be hoping to have at least ten or eleven names finalised and,really,should have a fair idea of who the other four or five would be. A wish list would be in every coachs back pocket.
Indias wish list is pretty obvious,and a first reading will expose the biggest problem with it. Ideally,this is what I suspect Kirsten and Dhoni and Srikkanth would be looking at the evening before the first game: Sachin Tendulkar,Virender Sehwag,Gautam Gambhir,Yuvraj Singh,Mahendra Singh Dhoni,Suresh Raina,Irfan Pathan,Harbhajan Singh,Praveen Kumar or Ashish Nehra,Zaheer Khan,Pragyan Ojha. Eleven of those twelve names look settled but for India to be strong at the World Cup,number seven needs to be identified and at the moment,Irfan Pathan has gone underground!
So if Pathan (jr) is not on the radar,who bats after the batsmen and above the bowlers and gives you a few,if not ten,overs? India have tried Pathan (sr) and I suspect he is still an option and currently are investing heavily in Ravindra Jadeja who has,so far,given little indication of becoming the rock star Shane Warne thought he could be. Could be is the operative phrase here early in his career,Jadeja seems to have stagnated and I suspect people will start looking for returns on investment very shortly.
I also suspect Indias think-tank will have started thinking seriously about a plan B. They will need one because there is no number seven who answers to the right job description anywhere in sight in India. You would have thought that the IPL would have thrown up a couple of names but really,apart from Ashwin who seems better with the new ball than with the old at the moment,the canvas is blank.
And so I suspect India might have to go the way they did during that very successful run from 2002-04,when the selfless Rahul Dravid took the gloves and allowed India to play a seventh batsman. Straightaway you can see Rohit Sharma playing the role that Mohammad Kaif did then,with the license to bat freely in case the team is in a good situation and douse the fires if there is a batting collapse.
But what looks good in the mind and on paper need not necessarily appear the same way on the field. So who bowls the other ten overs? Or more if one of the bowlers has had a bad day? Its time then to ask the batsmen to start rolling their arm over and in home conditions,it isnt such a daunting task.
Sehwag is a very competent off-spinner (remember Aravinda da Silva bowling ten overs quite often in 1996) and Yuvraj Singh is much underrated. But I think it is time to look even further and start throwing the ball to Suresh Raina,who seems to possess a pretty cool head when bowling in the twenty overs game. Or,for that matter,to Rohit Sharma who can be good for a few overs.
A bits-and-pieces-player policy tends to be fraught with danger because you can run the risk of getting neither a bowler nor a batsman and so India need to play to their strength; which is batting on Indian pitches. Four players to generate ten overs between them shouldnt be a huge issue.
I am not sure that is the way the think-tank is thinking at the moment but if number seven remains elusive even after the Sri Lanka tri-series,it might be the right time to start asking the batsmen if they fancy six-over spells in limited overs cricket. My gut feel is that they will jump at the opportunity.
India have eight one-day games in home conditions before the World Cup. They must know what they want at the World Cup before those games begin.