India has used 27 players in One Day Internationals in the year 2010. And with the World Cup less than 200 days away now, the ODI unit is looking in deep trouble. Just a few spots are cemented... so one can safely say that a lot of construction work will need to be undertaken.
Lets look at the men who have their places reserved in the team sheet (assuming no injury concerns in February 2011):
Openers: Virendra Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir (I know GG is not in the best of nicks right now... but he is a virtual certainty for me as he can rotate the strike very well and knows how to build an innings)
Middle Order: Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (That's it! From the best middle order in the world in Tests to no middle order at all in limited overs format)
Bowlers: Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh (I put in a lot of thought before typing down Bhajji's name... and yes, both the pacers here are very injury prone)
That leaves three in the first XI and seven more in the XV. I guess Praveen Kumar should be the first of the three vacancies to be filled up - his numbers in ODIs in 2010 read 12 wickets in 7 matches at an average of 22.50, economy of 4.82 and strike rate of 28.00. He is India's third highest wicket taker in ODIs in 2010.
The next vacancy that needs to be filled is in the middle order... where once upon a time, Yuvraj Singh was a certainty! However, his numbers in 2010 make an abysmal reading for a man of his talents. He has 101 runs from 6 ODI outings at an average of 20.20 and a strike rate of just 68.24. He faces stiff competition from Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. One might want to add Dinesh Karthik's name here... but I am not one of his fans.
Now, like Harsha Bhogle has suggested in his latest article, if Ravindra Jadeja or Yusuf Pathan do not perform well in the ODIs that India has in the lead up to the World Cup and we do not find suitable replacements... then we might well have to use two of the three names above (Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma) in the middle order.
India will have to use its part-time spinners to fill up the fifth bowler's quota of ten overs... something not very unfamiliar for the team. Who are these part-timers? There is Sehwag and Raina amongst the certainties. With Tendulkar not bowling any more and Gambhir playing as a specialist batsman, the selection of the last two middle order spots might well be on the basis of the bowling abilities... and not batting.
If this is the case, then Yuvraj Singh gets a direct entry (not that he shouldn't... but he still needs to answer a lot of questions about his batting form and commitment to the team)! The other spot might go to Rohit Sharma... not that his bowling is great, but he has bowled more often than Virat Kohli (who is far away from Chris Harris' wicket taking record for New Zealand despite having a duplicate bowling action)!
The four reserves are easy to pick: Kohli gets one spot, Dinesh Karthik will get another (how I wish India should try some other keeper over these next few months just to see if there is a better option available). Going by the current investments, I guess Jadeja will make it to the fifteen and the last available spot might go to Pragyan Ojha or another seamer given the injury prone nature of our two frontline seamers.
But still, this team leaves a lot to be desired. It still does not feel like a 'World Championship' material team on current form and performance. A lot can change over the next 6 months... a lot will need to be changed!
Only The Beard Knows
11 hours ago