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Six months to go... Is Team India World Cup-ready?

Last updated on: August 19, 2010 00:17 IST

Six months to go... Is Team India World Cup-ready?

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With exactly six months to go for the 2011 World Cup Bikash Mohapatra does a check on Team India readiness for the event.

The countdown begins today, August 19, 2010. Exactly six months are left for the cricket World Cup.

On February 19, 2011, the quadrennial extravaganza commences, with co-hosts India and Bangladesh playing the first match at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium in Mirpur.

And it is time to ask that question which often plays on the mind of the quintessential Indian cricket fan.

Is Team India ready for the World Cup?

Agreed, we are the top Test nation at present. Also, no arguments regarding the fact that we are the No 2 one-day side in the world.

But are we consistent enough to repeat that memorable, and only, triumph of 1983? Do we have the players who can ensure an encore? Can Team India, for once, match the hype with a performance?

Jog your memories and remember the days before the start of the last World Cup in the West Indies, in 2007. India were favourites going into the event, and with Australia on a decline, every expert was quick to put his money on an Indian triumph.

We needn't be reminded about what actually happened to the team. If the first round exit was a bitter pill to swallow, then there was even bitter syrup on the prescription. Remember that humiliating defeat to Bangladesh?

So desperate were we after that defeat that most of us were actually praying that minnows the Bahamas beat Bangladesh to ensure our qualification. Wishful thinking eh!


Image: The Indian cricket team
Photographs: Reuters
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'We should start planning from now itself'

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This brings us back to the question we started out with.

More than three years have passed since that debacle, Team India is still among the favourites, Australia is yet to recover completely from the loss of its big names, and South Africa still choke on the big stage.

So are we ready? Does Team India have the right combination of players?

"There's still some time left before the World Cup," says Sachin Tendulkar, before adding, "But, yes, we should start planning from now itself and identify players for the purpose."

The Master Blaster is arguably the best player never to have won the flagship competition.

With next year's final to be held on his home ground -- a newly-laid Wankhede stadium -- it is added incentive for him to end an otherwise illustrious career with the lone prize missing from his trophy cabinet.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar

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'Our batting is strong enough, but...'

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Tendulkar remains as dependable as ever, and, if coach Gary Kirsten is to be believed, the rest of the batting too is not a worry.

"From the batting perspective, yes. They have been playing for some time now and we are really excited about their prospects," reasons the South African.

"We have got an exceptional group of 9 or 10 young batsmen. And when I say young, it also includes some senior players," he says, adding, "The likes of (Virat) Kohli and (Rohit) Sharma are showing they are ready for the international stage."

Madan Lal, a member of the 1983 squad that ensured that memorable triumph, concurs.

"Our batting is strong enough. It is the bowling where we are lacking," he says, categorically. Ask him what ails India's bowling and the former all-rounder who took a whopping 18 wickets in that edition of the tournament, appears worried.

"These days they make him (the bowler) a millionaire first and then give him the chance," he says, in obvious reference to the cash-rich Indian Premier League.

"It happens to be the scary part for Team India when we talk about our chances in the World Cup," he continues, adding, "We have to create a set of bowlers ahead of the tournament. The problem has to be solved and it can be done with some careful planning."


Image: Team India

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'We are yet to identify our core group of bowlers'

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Kiran More, a former chairman of selectors, seconds Madan Lal.

"In the last five to six months we have struggled in the bowling department," he admits, adding, "When we are approaching a tournament as significant as the World Cup the thrust should be on the development of at least seven bowlers so that there are replacements available in case of injuries."

Kirsten admits there are problems with the bowling and that needs to be addressed ahead of the tournament.

"From the bowling perspective, we are yet to identify our core group," he says. "That's probably an area where we have not finalised our things as who are going to be our core fast bowlers. So it provides an opportunity for the youngsters to come through.

"We have tried 9-10 different options in the last year or so. Hopefully, a couple of these guys will come through," he adds.

Fact is, despite trying so many options, the team is yet to put together a dependable bowling combination. And that comes across as a major worry ahead of the tournament. And if More is to be believed, the problem will persist, all thanks to the selectors.

"The approach of the selectors has failed," he says. "The right approach isn't given in nurturing a bowler. A bowler gets a chance for a season and is then dropped if he doesn't perform up to expectations.

"A bowler needs to be tested at least for a couple of years to make a difference at the international level. When you invest in a fast bowler you have to ensure he is sure of his place in the side for that period.

"But it is not the case with Team India. Even players like Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel aren't sure of their places in the side; no confidence has been given to them. They have also been sidelined at times," argues the former chief of selectors.


Image: Gary Kirsten

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'The team is overworked'

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Kirsten offers a counter argument.

"We need to see if guys who have been given limited opportunities till now have what it takes to win at the international level. Sometimes it does take one or two games to show what u are made of.

"The more we have these young players responding to the pressurized environment of international cricket, the better it is for Indian cricket."

Another obstacle in Team India's road to glory in the upcoming tournament might as well be their hectic schedule, the fact that they hardly get any rest.

The team's itinerary in the run-up to the World Cup is jam-packed, sans much respite and it definitely is a concern.

"I feel the team is overworked," admits former captain Bishan Singh Bedi, adding, "The players aren't getting enough rest."


Image: Team India

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'We are yet to zero down on the final team'

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Kirsten admits a lot of areas, the fatigue factor inclusive, need to be addressed ahead of the tournament. But the South African opts to remains positive.

"We need to have a decent and experienced squad ahead of the World Cup," he admits, before making an elaborate explanation.

"We continue to work and identify the players who can come through. We are yet to zero down on the final team," he says, adding, "It is important for Indian cricket that there is competition for places. That's exciting and you want that to happen. When you aren't sure of your place in the side, it urges you to perform well.

"We are some time away from the World Cup and we want to make sure that we have a squad of experienced players, players who are used to playing at the international level," he concludes.


Image: Gary Kirsten

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'Dhoni and Kirsten must ask selectors what they want'

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More offers an even easier solution.

 "It is not the right time to experiment," he states categorically, adding, "M S Dhoni and (Gary) Kirsten have to put their foot down and ask the selectors what they want for the World Cup."

All arguments taken into account, it is suffice to say that there are many questions that may mar Team India's prospects in the upcoming tournament.

The answer probably lies in solving the problems that peg the team on a perennial basis.

And there's only six months left to find the solutions.

Only then can we expect the team to win something it hasn't in the last 27 years.


Image: MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten

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Stats don't paint a good picture

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Rajneesh Gupta presents India's track record at major ICC ODI events: World Cup & Champions Trophy.

Summary of results

 

Matches

Won

Lost

NR

Won%

World Cup

58

32

25

1

55.17

ICC Champions Trophy

19

10

6

3

52.63

Summary of tournaments

 

Tournaments

Won

Runners-up

Semifinalists

World Cup

9

1

1

2

ICC Champions Trophy

6

1

1

0

India's record in the last two T20 World Cups (2009 and 2010)

 

Matches

Won

Lost

NR

Won%

2009

5

2

3

0

40.00

2010

5

2

3

0

40.00

TOTAL

10

4

6

0

40.00

 



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Excess cricket is the mantra

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Indian batsmen and bowlers' performances since January 2009.

(Till August 19, 2010)

Batting performances

 

Mts

Inns

NO

Runs

Hs

Avg

SR

100

50

0

MS Dhoni

43

37

11

1683

124

64.73

85.51

3

11

0

G Gambhir

36

32

2

1189

150*

39.63

89.33

2

8

3

SR Tendulkar

23

22

3

1176

200*

61.89

99.15

4

3

0

SK Raina

45

37

9

1114

106

39.78

98.32

1

7

3

V Sehwag

29

28

2

1106

146

42.53

126.25

3

3

0

V Kohli

27

24

4

923

107

46.15

83.68

2

7

2

Yuvraj Singh

29

27

2

884

131

35.36

91.70

2

6

2

KD Karthik

23

21

2

669

79

35.21

78.70

0

3

0

RG Sharma

20

18

4

546

114

39.00

82.35

2

1

3

RA Jadeja

32

20

5

518

61*

34.53

78.48

0

4

2

YK Pathan

25

19

6

280

59*

21.53

101.44

0

1

4

R Dravid

6

5

0

180

76

36.00

68.70

0

1

0

Harbhajan Singh

32

16

4

172

49

14.33

92.97

0

0

3

P Kumar

27

13

4

164

54*

18.22

90.10

0

1

1

M Vijay

4

4

0

71

25

17.75

61.20

0

0

0

RP Singh

8

3

1

44

23

22.00

41.50

0

0

0

A Nehra

32

11

6

41

16*

8.20

60.29

0

0

0

Z Khan

21

5

0

40

17

8.00

86.95

0

0

1

R Ashwin

1

1

0

38

38

38.00

118.75

0

0

0

A Mithun

2

2

0

28

24

14.00

71.79

0

0

0

I Sharma

22

5

1

23

13

5.75

46.93

0

0

1

AB Dinda

5

3

0

18

16

6.00

60.00

0

0

1

PP Ojha

10

5

5

12

7*

-

41.37

0

0

0

IK Pathan

2

1

0

8

8

8.00

38.09

0

0

0

L Balaji

1

1

0

7

7

7.00

70.00

0

0

0

S Sreesanth

8

4

2

6

4

3.00

28.57

0

0

0

Pankaj Singh

1

1

1

3

3*

-

100.00

0

0

0

U Yadav

3

1

1

3

3*

-

100.00

0

0

0

MM Patel

6

2

1

2

2*

2.00

40.00

0

0

1

NV Ojha

1

1

0

1

1

1.00

14.28

0

0

0

S Tyagi

4

1

1

1

1*

-

50.00

0

0

0

A Mishra

7

1

0

0

0

0.00

0.00

0

0

1

AM Nayar

3

1

1

0

0*

-

0.00

0

0

0

R Vinay Kumar

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Bowling performances

 

Mts

Overs

Mdns

Runs

Wkts

Best

Avg

RpO

SR

4W

A Nehra

32

241.4

8

1431

49

4-40

29.20

5.92

29.59

3

Harbhajan Singh

32

259.5

5

1289

40

5-56

32.22

4.96

38.97

1

I Sharma

22

162.5

8

1001

31

4-57

32.29

6.14

31.52

1

P Kumar

27

197.5

17

1009

31

3-22

32.54

5.10

38.29

0

RA Jadeja

32

245.4

11

1184

28

4-32

42.28

4.81

52.64

1

Z Khan

21

170.3

12

941

23

3-38

40.91

5.51

44.48

0

Yuvraj Singh

29

147.4

2

731

19

3-31

38.47

4.95

46.63

0

PP Ojha

10

96.1

0

428

15

4-38

28.53

4.45

38.47

1

YK Pathan

25

100.4

1

578

15

3-56

38.53

5.74

40.27

0

S Sreesanth

8

64.3

1

470

9

3-49

52.22

7.28

43.00

0

V Sehwag

29

54.5

0

282

8

4-6

35.25

5.14

41.13

1

A Mishra

7

63.1

1

309

6

3-40

51.50

4.89

63.17

0

SK Raina

45

49

0

250

5

1-13

50.00

5.10

58.80

0

RP Singh

8

45

3

266

5

2-22

53.20

5.91

54.00

0

IK Pathan

2

16

0

113

4

3-58

28.25

7.06

24.00

0

RG Sharma

20

21

1

116

3

2-27

38.66

5.52

42.00

0

S Tyagi

4

27.3

4

144

3

1-15

48.00

5.23

55.00

0

AB Dinda

5

37.5

1

228

3

2-44

76.00

6.02

75.66

0

R Ashwin

1

10

0

50

2

2-50

25.00

5.00

30.00

0

R Vinay Kumar

1

8

0

51

2

2-51

25.50

6.37

24.00

0

MS Dhoni

43

2

0

14

1

1-14

14.00

7.00

12.00

0

U Yadav

3

22

1

129

1

1-61

129.00

5.86

132.00

0

MM Patel

6

27.2

1

211

1

1-13

211.00

7.71

164.00

0

L Balaji

1

5

0

32

0

-

-

6.40

-

0

V Kohli

27

9.4

0

60

0

-

-

6.20

-

0

A Mithun

2

12

0

87

0

-

-

7.25

-

0

AM Nayar

3

3

0

17

0

-

-

5.66

-

0

Pankaj Singh

1

7

0

45

0

-

-

6.42

-

0

SR Tendulkar

23

1.5

0

22

0

-

-

12.00

-

0

R Dravid

6

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

G Gambhir

36

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

KD Karthik

23

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

NV Ojha

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

M Vijay

4

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Statistics: Rajneesh Gupta



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