Fitness issues bog ahead of team selection for the World Cup

Fitness issues bog ahead of team selection for the World Cup

The core group of the squad having been identified quite some time back, Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s panel will be more concerned about fitness issues than selectorial matters based on current form and past records.

Assuming all other things are equal and that no player is ruled ineligible on grounds of fitness and injury, the selectors will likely only dwell on two spots that require careful consideration.

Indications are that the think-tank is disinclined towards having a back-up wicket-keeper for Mahendra Singh Dhoni because in its opinion, it takes away one crucial slot. The way around an emergent situation arising on match day could be for the first-choice reserve ’keeper to travel with the squad without being a part of the 15. That will allow India the luxury of fielding him at short notice if something untoward were to happen to their skipper. It will also make space for the extra batsman or the additional seamer in the squad.

Should the extra batsman get the nod, it will be Rohit Sharma, even if the Mumbaikar has done precious little since his twin hundreds in Zimbabwe last May. If the team management is desirous of a fifth seamer, that slot should go to S Sreesanth.
Munaf Patel has surely sealed the fourth pacer’s spot now alongside Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar, whose troublesome right elbow will attract some discussion at Monday’s meeting. India have tried out more than a dozen fast bowlers in the last two years before zeroing in on this quartet. Only injuries could see a different combination if the decision-making group opts for only four pacers.

“Fast bowling is one department where we don’t mind options,” Dhoni said. “The World Cup is a long tournament. Hopefully, we will pick the best eleven who are fit to play the whole tournament because injuries have been a big worry for us.”

India have a fair few options on the spinning front as the wise men seek to identify Harbhajan Singh’s partner. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha had established himself as an early favourite, but an untimely shoulder injury has kept him out of the last two series. Offie R Ashwin has done little wrong and everything right in his brief international career, especially while bowling in the Power Plays, but Piyush Chawla has all of a sudden emerged a strong candidate.

The stocky leggie, however, hasn’t played a 50-over international since the Asia Cup in July 2008, and there is little indication of his current form, given that he has been kept out of the 11 for the first two games of this series.

Given the plethora of part-time off-spin options, India may not feel the need for a second specialist offie even if Ashwin does possess in his repertoire the ball that goes away from the right-hander. Yuvraj Singh alone in the squad takes the ball away consistently; Chawla’s leg-spin, however sparingly it might have been seen on the world stage, could earn him a recall, though it’s a mystery how his career has been resurrected after so much time in the wilderness.

Likely 15: M S Dhoni (capt, wk), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla. Other options: R Ashwin, S Sreesanth.

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