'Youngsters have to grab chance'

Indian think-tank hopes to identify core group of players for World Cup

Sachin Tendulkar, who normally enlivens the training sessions with his effervescent presence, was absent, having pulled out of the Tri-series, but youngsters like Suresh Raina, S Sreesanth, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja lent energy to the drills.

The Indian think-tank hopes to build their team around some of these men for the hectic months leading to the 2011 World Cup and it may not be entirely wrong to suggest that the process of identifying the core for the mega event will gather steam from the soil of Bangladesh.

All the said names have exhibited their abundant talent on various occasions at the highest level, but they are yet to attain the kind of consistency that separates true pros from the wannabes. For instance, Raina’s arrival in international cricket had attracted a lot of attention, not just for his elegant strokeplay but also for the remark made by former coach Greg Chappell that he could be the next Brian Lara.

The comment seemed to have hung like a millstone around the Uttar Pradesh player’s neck as the Indian public expected him to play a knock of substance every time he went out to bat. He might no longer be the chosen one after his weakness against short-pitched bowling became apparent, but the southpaw has an important role to play in the middle-order and he also continues to be a livewire on the field.

Rohit too has a similar case to present. A natural talent, this young Mumbai batsman had even invited comparison with Tendulkar in the initial days, but lost his way soon.

After some good knocks, including a triple hundred against Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy, he has been given a second chance to revive his faltering career, and hopefully the Mumbaikar will show enough sensibility to realise the importance of the opportunity.

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stressed the significance of youngsters grabbing the chances. “Since our batting is strong we may not be able to give so many chances to youngsters. It is up to them to grab the chances that come their way. They will have to earn their place in the side.

“Sachin has been around for 20 years, and he will certainly be missed when he is not around. But our aim is to make sure that we won’t miss him on the field, though a guy like him will be missed in the dressing room for the experience he brings with him. It is on the field the youngsters should step up and grab their chances,” Dhoni said.
Recent performances of Kohli and Jadeja — who has also been brilliant with his left-arm spin — do give a lot of hope in that regard. There was little doubt over Kohli’s talent, but his temperament was susceptible. However, he played an innings that features regularly in every batsman’s dream, coming up with a match-winning hundred against Sri Lanka in the fourth one-dayer at Eden Gardens.

A string of good scores here might see Kohli undergoing a complete transformation as a batsman, akin to what Gautam Gambhir experienced last year. It was hardly surprising then to hear Dhoni saying he had seen the desired sparks in the youngsters.  “I am not denying that our bowling and fielding were not up to the mark in the last few months.
But more importantly we have been able to find a pool of bowlers and batsmen who can be a part of the scheme when the World Cup arrives some 13 months later. It is important to keep them in the loop, rotate them appropriately and get consistent results.”

The tri-series, hopefully, will mark the successful beginning of that process.

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