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    February 12, 2007

    India wins the World Cup squad naming race

    Assuming that squad announcements by Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland don't really matter, India are the first major cricketing side to announce the 15-member squad for the 2007 World Cup.

    The squad isn't worth arguing about. It's quite predictable, which isn't a bad thing in itself, come to think of it.

    In alphabetical order of last name, it reads: Ajit Agarkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Rahul Dravid (c), Sourav Ganguly, Dinesh Karthik (wk?), Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, S Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Robin Uthappa, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh.

    Sreesanth is in, after missing out on the ICC Champions Trophy last year, despite his horrendous run in one-day cricket. Perhaps his showing yesterday at Rajkot against Sri Lanka saved him from being axed.

    The selectors have taken a few gambles. There're four possible opening batsmen, with Ganguly set to be a fixture at the top. With Tendulkar doing quite well in his middle-order role, Sehwag will have to compete with Uthappa for the opener's slot. Uthappa has been inconsistent (86, 12, 0, 70, 28, 7), averages 34 and has a frightening strike rate. That description fits Sehwag too! There're at least 4 horrible fielders (Ganguly, Sehwag, Munaf and Kumble). That's four too many for a side which aims at winning a World Cup. There're at least 3 bowlers from whom anything more than 5 runs per game is a bonus (Sreesanth, Kumble and Munaf). Once again, that's three too many!

    Yuvraj, Agarkar and Pathan are as yet unfit. But given there're 3 weeks to go before India's warm-up game against the Netherlands on March 6, those are reasonable bets worth taking. But they could be really short of match-practice and a lot will depend on their performances in the two warm-up games.

    Outside of this 15, the only ones with a semblance of a chance to be picked were Raina, Powar and Kaif. Kaif and Powar should feel particularly hard done by. Almost everytime they've had an opportunity, they've done reasonably well. If I had to make one change, I'd pick Powar instead of Sreesanth. Even on the smaller grounds in the Caribbean, Powar's more likely to get wickets compared to Sreesanth, who doesn't know what length to bowl in one-day cricket. If the newly relaid pitches in the West Indies aren't going to help fast bowlers, which is very likely to be the case, Sreesanth could be a liability. In addition, India needs someone who can rival Chris Gayle in the 'cool dude' stakes.

    Dinesh Karthik and Sourav Ganguly must be pinching themselves. Until as late as 3 months ago, neither would have been close to selection. But a combination of several factors, including their brilliant ability to make the best of the situations that fell into their lap, have ensured that they're on the plane. It's in fact wrong to mark Dinesh Karthik as a reserve wicket-keeper. He's in the side as a middle-order batsman. He's impressed just about everytime he's gone out to bat in the last 2-3 months. He has the ability to score at close to a run-a-ball and hit a few boundaries. For a wicket-keeper, he's one of India's best outfielders.

    My predicted XI for India's first league game, against Bangladesh on 17 March (11 years after I was the lone person in a hostel TV room in Singapore watching Sri Lanka beat Australia at Lahore), in batting order, is: Ganguly, Uthappa, Dravid, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Pathan, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Kumble, Munaf. Unless Sehwag impresses in the warm-ups (Netherlands and West Indies), I can't see how he can get in as a middle-order player (especially when Dinesh Karthik has done more than enough to justify being picked in that slot) or as an opener (if Uthappa does well in the warm-ups too).

    I started writing this, saying that there wasn't too much to argue. Now, proof-reading it, I get the feeling there's quite a lot to argue about. So, "I declare the arguments OPEN!"

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 1:27 PM |
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    12 sledge(s):

    Hi Jagadeesh,

    I felt that "cool dude" attitude which you mentioned, with Robin Uthappa during the West Indies Series. He can, of course, give a good start (although he failed miserably in the last two matches) along with Ganguly. Now that we have a good opening pair, the middle order is still weak with Sehwag coming at # 4 or # 5. Your opinion?

    By Blogger Dilip (12-Feb-2007, 2:40:00 PM)  

    I would pick Kaif & Powar for Sreesanth & Kumble.

    By Blogger Ganesh (12-Feb-2007, 2:47:00 PM)  

    dilip: 'Cool dude' was in the context of wearing hideous looking sunglasses etc. I'm unconvinced if Sehwag should be in the middle order. If he's not opening, I'd find it tough to fit him in the side when Dinesh Karthik bats briskly and fields superbly. Sehwag's only hope is to keep predicting that his day will come at the World Cup when he blasts a century in 50 balls and takes 3/40 in his 10 overs, against a non-minnow team in a critical game.

    ganesh: Kaif's confidence is shot. End of story.

    By Blogger Jagadish (12-Feb-2007, 3:20:00 PM)  

    Jagadish: Sehwag a horrible fielder? I guess you didn't watch the SA test series then?

    By Blogger Manish (12-Feb-2007, 3:40:00 PM)  

    Quick comparison: Kaif and Chris Read. Harshly treated by selectors, now unlikely to get back into the side largely as a result of that treatment. I've always had time for Kaif, although maybe that's because he's saved his best for England.

    By Blogger Geoff (12-Feb-2007, 3:52:00 PM)  

    Manish - Sehwag's a good catcher, a horrible fielder, in the sense of being an all-round fielder.

    Geoff - Interesting comparison, although Chappell'd never have said Kaif didn't have the ability to handle pressure against Australia :)

    By Blogger Jagadish (12-Feb-2007, 4:10:00 PM)  

    Jagadish: A good dive is a good dive...whether you catch the ball without a bump or not. And its not as if he is good at slips...that you can lable is at just 'good reflexes' thing.

    Point being, he is a good fielder. He can win you matches by taking catches not taken by below-average fielders. Simple.

    And btw, he is not horrible in ground fielding either.

    By Blogger Manish (12-Feb-2007, 6:48:00 PM)  

    I think Sehwag is definitely a bad ground fielder.

    By Blogger Ganesh (12-Feb-2007, 7:38:00 PM)  

    manish - Sehwag is a good catcher. He's _not_ a good fielder. In a one-day game, you need to be both. At least you need to be average in both, which Sehwag isn't. I don't have any statistical evidence, but I'm fairly sure that good ground fielding is more likely to win you games than spectacular catches, primarily by forcing the batsmen to take risks. Look at what happened with Sri Lanka v India. Sri Lanka choked India's boundary hitting with some good fielding. Then Dhoni had to hit out and that caused the spectacular catch. The spectacular catch was a consequence of good fielding.

    By Blogger Jagadish (13-Feb-2007, 9:42:00 AM)  

    I would definitely prefer Powar over Kumble. Can you justify Kumble's selection inspite of him being left out of several ODIs before ? Sehwag and Sreesanth - considering the recent past, need to be left out of the playing 11. Karthick should be in the 11 as he has proven himself in many crunch situations.

    By Blogger Nisha (13-Feb-2007, 8:41:00 PM)  

    Powar has the ability to take wickets in the middle overs even more than Harbhajan (leave alone Kumble as he will not make it to the playing eleven against good teams).

    By Blogger Praveen (13-Feb-2007, 8:43:00 PM)  

    Powar's just plain unlucky. I'd have picked Powar ahead of Sreesanth. Sree's just had one good game. Powar's been far more consistent.

    By Blogger Jagadish (13-Feb-2007, 11:55:00 PM)  

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