Problem areas persist despite lack of time

India must get their composition and balance right with just 12 games left

Problem areas persist despite lack of time

It’s not an alarming situation as yet, but the fact that with the World Cup less than five months away, India are still to zero-in on a settled combination for the quadrennial event in the sub-continent is certainly a cause for concern.

More importantly, with Sunday’s wash-out of the opening one-dayer against Australia, India are now left with just 12 matches to prepare themselves for the mega show. Time is certainly at a premium, and there are a lot of bases to be covered.

“There are quite a few slots that are open,” admitted skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, stressing the need to find a fast bowler, a middle-order batsman, an all-rounder or a big-hitting lower-order batsman.

Normally, with a tournament of the magnitude of the World Cup around, you would expect any top-class team to have figured out most of its personnel. However, in India’s case, as Dhoni pointed out, there are quite a few selection issues that need to be addressed.    

Dhoni spoke of the possibility of using Saurabh Tiwary, who has been a part of the side for some time now, as a big-hitting lower-order batsman. Similarly, Saurashtra’s Ravindra Jadeja has been groomed as an all-rounder for a while now, but the left-arm spinning all-rounder barely has managed to live up to expectations.

In that case, someone like R Ashwin could be tried, but then time is so short that India might resort to the safe option of playing an extra batsman and relying on part-timers to fill in for the fifth bowler.

“The top five or six batsmen, and totally eight to nine players, are almost sure if injuries don’t bother them. (But the remaining) slots have been open for quite some time now and they are available depending on the performances of individuals. It’s also about what criteria the team wants to go with -- whether they want an all-rounder or stick with a batsman to work away with the part-timer,” observed Dhoni.

Resting some key players for the current series doesn’t make much sense. “Most of the players (rested) have some kind of a niggle or injury,” Dhoni offered when asked about the logic behind leaving out some big names with the World Cup fast approaching.

“You have to be safe at the same time because they have been playing quite a fair amount of cricket. It is a jam-packed schedule. Until the World Cup too, we will be playing quote a bit of cricket, which means it is better to rest the players if they have small niggles than allow the niggles to turn into injuries,” he explained.

In that case, the selectors should have given rest to Dhoni, who has been playing almost non-stop in the last one year, and not without any injury worries. “It’s an inside matter and it will remain inside,” Dhoni remarked typically when quizzed about whether he was asked to play or he chose not to rest. It’s not that Dhoni hasn’t opted for a break – he skipped the Sri Lanka Test series in 2008 citing fatigue – but since then, he has featured in almost all of India’s matches.

“It’s important to assess your body before you opt for rest. We certainly want to rest our key players, but then we have to look at the circumstances as well. Hopefully, we will play the South African series with the best eleven. We are a bit on the defensive when it comes to saving players from injuries because it can happen anytime to anyone,” he noted. While India being on the defensive doesn’t come as music to the ears, one only hopes that youngsters rise to the challenge.  

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