PARTAB RAMCHAND | 29 AUGUST, 2017
World Cup 2019: Get Your Act Together Team India
Long term planning is the first step towards achieving your goal and if India are to emerge victorious in the 2019 World Cup in England then that plan should be put into place now. After all it is less than two years away from the mega event and the places in the final squad of 15 should start filling in with the ODI series in Sri Lanka.
The ongoing woefully lop sided contest against the islanders is no yardstick vis-à-vis the opposition the Indians will encounter in the World Cup but at least a start will have been made and then things can fall into place in the course of the tougher opposition they will come up against during the rest of the season and the year after that.
While the Test squad looks balanced and well settled and is firmly perched on top of the ICC rankings the same cannot be said about the ODI side that is currently third in the rankings behind South Africa and Australia and only marginally ahead of England and New Zealand. There is still work to be done before the Indians can emerge as serious contenders for the big prize in England.
Winners at home in 2011 but eliminated at the semifinal stage in Australia four years later there is little doubt that India’s overall record in the World Cup is decidedly mixed. Twice champions, runners-up once, three time semifinalists, eliminated at the group or preliminary stage four times and at the Super Six stage once is a balance sheet that has slightly more ups than downs.
Mixed too is their record in England for apart from that memorably unexpected triumph in 1983 they have been eliminated at the preliminary stage in 1975 and 1979 and at the Super Six stage the last time the competition was held there in 1999. Perhaps one should not read too much into the showing of the first two campaigns when the Indians had still not come to terms with the intricacies of the limited overs game. All the same the performance in 1999 when the Indians were one of the leading contenders was disappointing.
There is little doubt that the competition for the top spots is much more intense in limited overs cricket compared to Tests given its abbreviated form. And despite the enormous popularity of both the Fifty50 and Twenty20 format in this country the performance of the Indian limited overs squad has not matched the tremendous following for the sport. The very fact that India is ranked fifth in the Twenty20 rankings is also indicative of this.
This comes as a bit of a surprise for the Indian team on the face of it appears to have the kind of cricketers required for a successful run in limited overs cricket. An explosive batting line-up, several bits and pieces players (so very important in the format), fairly high fielding standards (another very important aspect of the game) and the right kind of balance among pace and spin bowlers. It is therefore reasonable to assume that they are not performing up to potential.
This is where Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli will have to work on the team and see that they at least perform up to the level of their class and skill. The two are the key men as the run-up to the World Cup starts and from all accounts the coach and the captain are on the same wavelength as far as planning and strategy are concerned. They should put their heads together and utilize their vast experience and immense knowledge in such a way as to inspire the team to raise the level of their performance on the big stage.
Of course the selectors too have an important task. If the unexpected triumph in 1983 came about credit should also go the selectors for picking a side that was ideal for English conditions besides of course having a number of utility players who played such an important role in the victorious campaign. This time also the wicket and weather conditions in England should be kept in mind while picking the squad.
Also should the selectors go for youth or experience? One way of their thinking has been established by the fact that Yuvraj Singh was not considered for the series in Sri Lanka and Suresh Raina widely expected to make a comeback also did not make the cut. The chairman of the selection committee MSK Prasad has also put MS Dhoni on notice saying that he is not an automatic selection anymore. ``If he is not delivering we will have to look at alternatives’’ he is quoted to have said. While this could be putting pressure on the 36-year-old former Indian captain it could also send out a signal that no one can take his presence for granted which is a good thing. Even Kohli has made it clear that no one is guaranteed of a place in the squad as there are multiple players vying for the limited spots in the playing eleven.
In the ultimate analysis the team should be an ideal blend of youth and experience with the skill to succeed in English conditions. Kohli’s team has a number of experienced players who are well established while youth are starting to make their presence felt. It is to be hoped that a couple of really talented youngsters can force their way in over the next 18 months or so and a well balanced team will be in place for the World Cup.