Monday, January 31, 2011

The Chokers!!!

Someone may sue me for using this word as a title, but I will take the risk. Reason is beyond the obvious. WC92 was the first world cup when SA played. That was the last world cup when they were not hot favorites. But till date, their performance in WC92 remains their best – a semi final exit when everyone believed that they should have won. Since then, it’s just have been the question of when they will do for which they are best known as – choke. It’s never been a question of “If they will choke.” More they do it, more difficult it becomes for “if” to replace “when.” Here is my take on their team.

Graeme Smith – After the calculation mistake of 2003, when one of the South African giant told Harsha Bhogle that 23 year old Smith is the solution for SA’s problems, Bhogle said he was aghast. But Smith did turn out to be that solution. There is a saying that every SA cricketer has two inevitable events in his life – he will surely die and he will surely choke at a WC. Smith couldn’t avoid the later in WC07 and he will have to be a superhuman to avoid the former. But he is one of the best SA has ever produced in terms of batting and captaincy. He did turn it around for SA after the slump created by Cronje’s admissions. If Cronje was a decent batsman, Smith is much better. If Cronje turned the dressing room into a hut of a saints, Smith’s team mates boast of model girlfriends. If Cronje turned out to be a match fixer , Smith has been fixing cricketing problems. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be Cronje part 2. His opponents will be afraid of him unless they have a left arm pacer in the playing XI who has his name starting from the letter Z. If opponents have such a player, Smith will fear them.

Hashim Amla - Amla is SA’s Rahul Dravid of 2001-2005. When he scored at an average of 36 and strike rate of 76 in first 6 matches of his ODI career, it was easy to term him as a test specialist which he actually was. He came back strongly to score over 2,000 runs in next 36 matches at an average of 62 and strike rate of 94. He made his test debut against India and failed which helped in avoiding the Indian curse. Only if Indians had allowed him to score heavily in that test, they might have avoided the Amla ka Hamla in the recent series. He must be thankful to God that his 22nd ODI was his first against India hence he once again avoided the Indian curse. Amla will be the one to watch out for in this world cup. India may suffer the most for letting him off the Indian curse.

Johan Botha – When someone told me that Botha is seen as SA’s future captain, I looked for reasons. Only reason I could find out was that Botha is a year and 90 days younger to Smith. Botha is an excellent all rounder only if he can swap his bowling average of 40 with batting average of 18. Otherwise a batsman with batting average of 18 is as bad as a bowler with bowling average of 40. His economy rate of 4.65 is impressive but so was Gevin Larson’s. NZ never let him lead the side. What a pity. I am told that his strength is bowling Yorkers. But that didn’t impress Yusuf Pathan. That will surely not impress many like him especially amongst Asian batsmen.

AB de Villiers – AB says he wants to be world’s best batsman. But so does Rohit Sharma although may be just to himself. But there is a big difference. AB’s record clearly suggests that he tries hard to become what he wants. He could be extremely dangerous and has a liking for Indian subcontinent. He is not a bad wicketkeeper at all.

Faf du Plessis – More than anyone else, he will be a big headache for commentators’ especially Hindi commentators. I am dying to see his name in Hindi newspapers. Just imagine what you may see there.

Imran Tahir – Tahir seems like SA’s secret weapon imported from Pakistan. He is yet to make his debut though. More than me, Tahir must be hoping that he doesn’t turn out to be SA’s Sunil Valson . Just in case you are Imran Tahir and manage to stumble upon this page, please do click the link.

Colin Ingram – 11 matches, 378 runs with an average of 41 and strike rate of 87 does look impressive. Just take out two of his 100s and he has scored 104 in 9 matches at an average of 17 and strike rate of 80. Agreed that he made a 100 on debut but that was against Zimbabwe. His second 100 came against Pakistan but you never know when it comes to Pakistan. I hope you know what I mean here. Given the fact that he has never played in Indian sub continent, he might struggle here. But India may come for his rescue.

J Kallis – He is the best ever after Garry Sobers although some may put him ahead of Sobers. When I saw Kallis walking back to pavilion every time after he got out in WC96, I wondered why commentators ranked him so high. He scored 63 runs in 5 matches and couldn’t take a single wicket in WC96. I think Kallis read my thoughts and hurt us real bad later– his best batting average is against India (excluding minnows). His record in the sub continent is better than his career record – in both batting and bowling. I hope that WC11 will be same as WC96 but it may well be a mirror image.

Morne Morkell – God made 10 guys like me and cut them in height. Then he combined that height and added it to Morkel’s. Morkel acted like a truly thankless person and, in the recent series, made Indians leap, hop, jump, and duck. Indians shouted “F**k.” Morkel came back to bowl and his bouncers said “F**k You!!” The bouncers did that too. But I am afraid this will be the payback time for Indian batsmen. Other may help them too. Morkel may not get the bounce he got in SA. At best his bouncers will reach Raina’s waist and Raina is good against fast bowling if it bounces below his waist or is at a speed less than 125kph. Morkel will surely qualify for one condition. He will also find lots of Rainas in this world cup.

Wayne Parnell – He is too young to be said anything about him. But he does belong to old generation of SA cricketers who dropped the steering wheel and closed their eyes whenever they saw a train headed towards their car. In last one year, it’s twice that India has beaten SA with a margin of 1 run. On both occasions, Parnell was the last man out.

Robin Petersen – His cricinfo profile page says about him “Spin bowlers of genuine potential are a rarity in South Africa, much less the jewels that can hold a bat as well as field with attacking intent. Peterson, a left-arm finger spinner from Eastern Province, fills all three vacancies more than competently” Well if someone batting average of 13 and bowling average of 50 (that too after 40 matche) can be talked about in such words, Petersen must belong to a rare breed. In subcontinent, he has played 9 matches, scored 49 runs, and taken 4 wickets. I don’t know why they are bringing him here. May be because either SA wants to showcase their rare talent to the world cricket or they want the guy writing cricinfo profile page to get fired.
Dale Steyn – He is the best pacer in the world. May be a liquor baron from India would disagree but he is the best.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe – He will another tongue twister for Hindi commentators. He will most likely be sharing Morkel’s disappointment – learning that it’s not the always shoulder that make you look unplayable, it’s also the track sometimes. When you are playing in Indian subcontinent, it’s always the track.

Morne Van Wyk – He is SA’s backup wicketkeeper. South Africans believe that he is quite a good batsman although an Indian Film Star may tend to disagree.

JP Duminy – When Duminy guided SA to their historic win with a well made half century, SA must have thought that they have discovered their solution to the age old problem of choking. He proved them wrong again and again by getting out at a crucial stage and SA lost the matches which they could have or should have won. If you disagree, go ask the residents of Antilia.

While SA will go hard at their opponents in the group stage, I am sure that their luck will be harder to them in the knock-out stage. They will choke again.

The neighbors on the southern front!!!

They are one of the strongest contenders of the trophy simply because it’s played to their strength – it is played at home. Not just at their home but at their neighbor’s home as well. But in Indian subcontinent, we believe that there is not much difference between our home and neighbor’s home. Wickets will be slow and low, SL has bowlers who can be slower and lower. Here is my take on their team –

K Sangakkara – He is their best player, no doubt about it. While SL happens to be the only team in the world till date who has survived another Munich, Sanga has another record to his credit. He remains the only cricketer alive to have received an apology from an umpire for a supposedly wrong decision . As a captain, Lanka has won 25 matches under his captaincy and lost just four – a record great enough to give headache to rest of the teams. But like every captain, he must have got some weakness as well and teams know where to find them. A Bollywood actress might have some answers.

M. Jayawardhene - Mahela is like a typical Indian batsman – he rocks at home and flops away. If SL can somehow destroy all the cricket stadiums in the world apart from Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, they might force the breed called bowlers to commit suicide. Mahela scores 48 runs per innings when he plays in SSC as compared to career average of 32. Alas, Lanka are not playing at SSC. They are playing in Premdasa where his average is 29. Only if their cricket board had hired me before deciding the venues for the world cup, they would have increased the probability of Mahela’s success. But it’s not my fault if this world doesn’t recognize a genius.

T. Dilshan - Dilshan is SL’s Jimmy Adams. He has played as a specialist batsman, as a batsman who bowls spin, as a spinner who can bat and as a wicketkeeper batsman. Just that recently, difference in his and Adam’s batting has expanded like Arjuna Ranatunga’s waist line. Unlike rest of the SL batsmen, he has done much well out of Indian subcontinent in last 2 years. During last 2 years, his average out of Indian sub continent is 59 with a strike rate of 103 whereas when he is playing in the subcontinent, his average drops to 47 – a clear indication that he is 25% less effective in the subcontinent. But even 75% of Dilshan may be enough to force you out of the world cup. After Mankad, he is the only cricketer to have named a cricketing term after him. While Dislcoop has brought him lot of runs, it has also brought failure to lot of batsmen trying to copy it. Recently, Dilshan has been showing others how to fail more miserably while playing this stroke. Let’s see what he and others do better this time - play this stroke better or fail.

D. Fernando – This tall and bulky pacer is known as Ajit Agarkar of Sri Lanka. In a t20 match against India, when India needed 18 of 12, SL captain handed over the ball to Fernando. Entire stadium shouted No-No. SL captain didn’t bother, neither did Fernando and gave away 13 in his over. Other teams will be banking on his Agarkar-like always deliver talent – both can deliver when needed most but in opposition’s favor. Fernando is believed to have the slowest bouncer in the game. Some of the bouncers were so slow that they are yet to reach the batsman. Incidentally, ICC has put a condition on his selection that he can take part in WC11 only if all his slow bouncers complete their trajectory before 19th February 2011. He will surely be an asset in WC11 – just that for which side is something which remains to be seen.

Angelo Matthews – When SRK bought him for IPL, he thought he would be buying his own version of Shane Watson. He gave him the pretence in first match with a wonderful performance. In rest of the tournament, Angelo proved that his performance was mere pretence. While he is capable of big hitting and useful bowling, teams other than India need not fear him for his bowling. Indian batsmen have been really kind to him. While he has played 33% of his matches against India, a big surprise that it is not 100%, he has taken 50% of his wickets against India. Just that Indian bowlers have compensated for this under performance – his batting average against India is 33% lower than his average against the rest. But Australians will surely vouch for his batting talent .

Ajantha Mendis - Few years back, Mendis foxed Indian batsmen like no other spinner has done in the history of cricket. But it looks like he foxed himself as well by his performance. If you have done very well against India at the start of your career, it is quite likely that you have touched your peak – something you would not like to do at the start of your career. It’s a curse which we Indians have reserved for any new comer doing well against us - ask Recardo Powell. In the very first year of his career, Mendis took 64 wickets in 28 matches i.e. 2.29 wickets per match. He took 24 wickets against India in 10 matches. After his first year, he has played only 17 matches and taken 14 wickets. In the same period, he has played just 6 matches against India which is really surprising when we see India playing SL more than a stock analyst plays the “Weak global cues” theory every time stock market tanks. To add to that, Mendis has taken just 4 wickets in 6 matches. May be he is SL’s Narendra Hirwani. One thing is sure, if SL plays India in this world cup, Yusuf Pathan must be licking his lips.

M. Muralitharan – The greatest off spinner to have played the game, ever - few may argue against it. The greatest off spinner to have been doubted because of his action – even fewer can argue against it. But one cannot argue against 800 test wickets. So what if 25% of them have come against minnows. He has announced that he will retire after the world cup hence we can safely assume that this will be his last world cup. After all, he doesn’t come from a country bordering us at our western border.

Thisara Perera – When MSD played him at the nets of CSK, Perera bowled 4 overs. All of them were at a perfect Yorker length. So MSD played him in a match. Perera went for a plenty. But when MSD played him in ODIs, story was different. 12 of his 22 ODI wickets have come against India. I bet he is off to the path Ajantha Mendis. But he has one quality which signifies SL’s bowling – he can be suffocating. He is a useful batsman down the order. Opposition must watch out for him.

Rangana Herath – Decent leg spinner. Sehwag may thing otherwise.

Chamara Kapugedera – He is SL’s Rohit Sharma – 5 years, 83 matches, and batting average of 23. Some say he has loads of talent. His record says otherwise.

Chamara Silva – Once there was H, Tilakratne. Then there was R. Arnold. Now SL has Chamara Silva. India has had just one Hemang Badani. Silva is not good enough to secure his place in batting lie up in a career spanning 12 years. He is good enough to make a comeback again and again. Silva is not great in batting but good in fielding. He can roll his arm over. India will watch out for him as like Arnold, he is always there to hurt them. Silva’s only 100 came against India.

N. Kulasekara – Kula is SL’s Praveen Kumar – good swing bowler but at a better pace. Sehwag doesn’t think he should be allowed to bowl hence he often loses his wicket to Kula. India has fed him with enough runs to believe that he is an all-rounder. Kula averages 26 against India whereas his career average is 17. But he can be quite useful as a strike bowler.

U Tharanga - He is Jayasuriya’s replacement. May be he is not as explosive as Jayasuriya was but Tharanga can be quite dangerous especially against minnows. But he is a good batsman.

T. Samarweera – He is the only cricketer post second world war to have survived a bullet attack. Few years back, he made his debut against India as an off spinner. India made him discover his hidden talent which is the talent of a solid middle order batsman. He scored a ton on debut which sent him to the rarest of rare breed – Samarweera is one of the few cricketers who did well against India at the start of their career and still managed to survive a decade. I guess surviving a bullet was lot easier than surviving Indian curse. He will be their most important batsman after Sanga and Mahela.

L. Malinga – And now to the superstar, the X factor and THE WEAPON which can be decisive factor on SL’s fate in this WC. He can be the most dangerous bowler in death-overs but it could be either ways. Future of Malinga’s bowling form can be guessed by his current hair style. If he has colored his hair in gold, grown them long enough to hide his eyes and curled them, it means his form will soon slump down to such a low that he will be kicked out of the side. If his hair style is more sober, it means batsmen will have a tough time facing him for at least a year. I don’t know what his current hair style is.

SL, given that WC is played in subcontinent, has the best chance of lifting the trophy on 2nd of April. But I hope we Indians will snatch it away from them. More than that, I hope we do not play against them in this WC. I JUST CANNOT TOLERATE ANOTHER INDIA-SRI LANKA ENCOUNTER. I JUST CANNOT.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The pressure of World Cups!!!

While watching a world cup build up show on ESPN, I suddenly realized that the world cup is less than a month away. For earlier world cups, I started feeling the build up for the world cup 6 months before it started. But with the IPLs, the annual t20 world cups, the epic Indo-Lankan series, the Asia Cups and the rest, there is no rest. One starts forgetting the significance of WC because of so many insignificant events occurring so frequently.

I just don’t remember the world cups for their significance. I also remember them for their timing which has always put me under pressure.

For my cricket viewing career of 22 years, 1992 was the first world cup. For India, it started on 22nd February 1992. Within a week, my final exams started. Rest you can imagine. Or maybe not. If the match was in Australia and it was a day match, I had to get up at 5:30 to watch a bit of it, get ready for the school, and leave home by 7:30 AM to reach my school by 8-8:15 AM. My school was some 12-15 KMs from my house and I used to go on my BSA SLR. Longer I stayed at home to watch a match, faster I had to be on my bicycle. India wasn’t doing very well in WC92. So when the match against Zimbabwe came up, it was like certain 2 points for the taking. In the excitement that finally I was going to see India win, I slept at 12:30AM. The match was supposed to start at 3:30 AM. I woke up at 2:00 AM just to realize there was still an hour and half to go. So what was the best way to pass my time? It was surely not studying for the next exam. I decided to count the seconds – some 5,000 odd were left. Finally the clock ticked 3:30AM. I switched on the TV hoping India would win the toss and I would be able to see 50 overs of Indians thrashing Zimbabwean bowling. Alas, it was raining. Match was delayed till 5:30. I counted again. Match was delayed till 6:30. I kept counting. Finally the match started at 7:30 AM i.e. just after I left for school.

I don’t know why ICC awarded 1996 WC to the subcontinent. It made my life difficult at it would have been organized in no other time than February-March. I had my board exams in March. Then there were engineering entrance exams in May. Anyhow, we did reasonably well in the tournament and reached the semi finals. “Just two more matches and we will be the world champs”, all of us thought. I remember it was our second last exam on the day India played Sri Lanka in the Semi Final. As soon as the exam got over, we all came rushing out to ask each other – “Who is batting?” By the time I reached home, Sri Lanka had crossed 200. 252 was the target. Sachin batted brilliantly till he slipped. Rest is history. But WC96 taught me one thing. We had a good cricket team. All we needed was a solid middle order batsman who could back up SRT at the top. I decided to be that middle order batsman. In the month of April, when it rains fire in Kanpur, I played cricket. I played all day – from dawn to dusk. Suddenly it was May and I had my entrance exams. My exams did to me what Sri Lanka did to Indian team in the semi final once SRT got out. And for your information, I never made it to the Indian middle order.

WC99 was the best world cup. It was scheduled in the month of May-June when we had summer vacations. I watched each and every match. Ball by ball.

WC03 was pretty similar to WC96. Just that India played much better cricket in WC03 as compared to WC96. While India was crossing hurdles after hurdles in February- March 2003, I was giving my MBA interviews. In every interview, there were questions/puzzles about cricket and the world cup. My last interview was on 25th of March. Final was on 23rd of March. We had stocked in every necessity in our flat before the match started. The match started. Zaheer Khan bowled a wide and sledged Gilchrist. Gilchrist hammered him. Then he started hammering the rest. By the time 35 overs were bowled, I gave up and headed to an internet café. As soon as I came out, I saw SRT getting out. I asked how much we are chasing and the answer did make me feel like breaking the mouth from where it came out. We lost. It hurts even today. Anyways, in my interview on 25th, I was asked – “What different you could have done in the final?”

My marriage was barely a month old when we met BD in our first match in WC07. While everyone in office was gung ho about the certain points in the match against BD, I was a bit skeptical – “What if we lose today?” We did. Everyone feared that we may well lose to Sri Lanka and crash out of the WC07. We did. This was a heart break for me. Now every wife will be shattered to see her husband heartbroken especially if she is not the reason for it. We had our first official argument which was as intense as this budget season of the parliament is expected to be. It looked as if re-election was not far away. But by God’s grace, Pakistan also crashed out. Now most of you would have taken part in campus recruitment. When you dream company rejects you, you feel terribly sad. When you are told that they didn’t select anyone, you feel relieved. I did feel mighty relieved after Pakistan crashed out. By the time WC11 started, my wife had not even started getting used to the amount of cricket she would need to put up with in her life. She is still trying. One her comments – “What is it? You are always watching cricket. I feel as if I am living in a stadium”

WC11 starts on 19th of February. That will be my 4th marriage anniversary. I will be under severe pressure again. I hope we don’t mess it up in Mirpur.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The neighbors on the western front!!!

So, Pakistanis have also announced their team. Like our own team, I cannot claim to make a self proclaimed educated comment about their team. So I relied upon a renowned writer from the other side of the border. But they have not chosen a captain or a vice captain.
PCB pays additional allowances to their captain. May be PCB is not in a position to do so. After all, PCB’s financial condition is as stable as their team has been in last two years. Paying additional allowances to a captain not only brings disparity in the team but it also gives others a chance to cast aspersion on the captain. Since they do not have a captain, they cannot have a vice captain also.

But who will lead the side. May be it will be decided just before the match. We will come to know of it by seeing who comes out for the toss. May be the captain will be decided during the match. In such a case, either entire playing XI will come out for the toss or PCB chief himself will come out. Or maybe the captain will be decided after the match. Winning a cricket match is also a lot about surprising your opponent. This is Pakistan’s strategy to surprise their opponents.
Teams like Australia are known for targeting the opposition captain. Consider a scenario (it is on the evening before Australia – Pak match)

Lee: Mate!!! We are playing Pakis tomorrow. Who should we target?
Clarke: Target their captain mate. Let him face some chin music. Make sure you beat the shit out of him!!!
Lee: Yeah Mate!!! But who is their captain?
Clarke: Don’t you know mate? Who comes for the toss?
Lee: All of them, bloody all of them.
Clarke: Then watch the fucking videos. Who sets the field?
Lee: I have seen it all. They just go and stand wherever they want.
Clarke: Yeah but someone must be coordinating.
Lee: No mate. They stand wherever they want. In the match against India, all of them were standing at the third-man when their retired bowler was bowling to SRT.
Clarke: Who makes the bowling changes?
Lee: In the first match, all of them fought for the ball. Their retired bowler snatched the bat from the batsman and started beating others. Referee intervened and since then, it is the umpire who decides it.
Clarke: Let’s visit the umpires then. Hurry up.

By the time everyone celebrated the arrival of 2009, most of the teams had started preparing for WC. Lot of them had a pool of players which was certain to play. As far as Pakistan is concerned, no one would have guessed that certain pool. Good chunk of the current 15 was unknown quantity then. Even a better chunk was retired. However, here is my take on the team -

Shahid Afridi – It was 1996 when I heard that a 16 year old Pakistani batsman scored a 37 ball 100. I thought Pakistan had discovered their own SRT. While SRT has been consistent throughout, he has grown up from a 16 year old kid to 37 year old stalwart. Afridi is different. While his performance fluctuated more violently than his batting, his age remained 16 for almost a decade. But he is dangerous while bowling. He is murderous while batting. Indian pacers claim to bowl fast and bowl in 120s, Afridi claims to bowl leg spin and keeps slipping in 120+ deliveries. May be he will lead the side.

Misbah-Ul-Haq – He has ability to take a game close from a hopeless position. Just that when the game is close, he hands over the hope to opposition. During last two years, he has averaged 30 in 15 games. And he is still in the side. He is talented no doubt but in absence of results, talent remains a promise e.g. a batsman from Borivali. But what can PCB do? Their best batsman was expecting PCB to call him out of retirement. Other options are fighting lawsuits or something. Pakistan will be hoping this Haq to fire during this WC like another Haq did in 1992. They will also be hoping that when THAT crucial run is needed, he doesn’t try to manufacture a shot and favor leg side. I think he will either be the captain or the vice captain.

Kamran Akmal – Recently, he has dropped more than he has caught. But what options does PCB have? One of their options is seeking an asylum in UK. Other one comes from Akmal family. They already have another Akmal in the side. 3 Akmals in the side would have lobbied and failed the strategy of “No Captain surprise” - hence him and not Adnan.

Umar Akmal – He looks like a slightly improved version of Imran Nazir who would have been a king of batting records if ODIs were 5-overs a side game. Alas, there are 50 overs to bat. I have heard he is the future of Pakistan’s batting. We will see.

Younis Khan – They consider him their best batsman. May be he is but with a career average of 33? But he has been a captain. May be he will lead the side.

Shohaib Akhtar – I do not know what to say. He is coming out of his third retirement or may be four. I am not sure. But even at an age of 35 odd (he looks 40+), he can bowl at 145+ and bowl well. Akhtar will surely spoil atleast one team’s party. Then he will party. Then he will take part in Jhalak Dikhla Ja. Since he will not return to Pakistan in time to play SA, PCB will issue him a show cause notice. He will retire. Doesn’t matter, he will come back. But one thing is sure; he will not lead the side.

Sohail Tanvir – Strange action. Good bowler. He can bat a bit. He is unlikely to lead the side.
Umar Gul – Very good bowler. He might turn out to be too good for lot of batsmen. He is unlikely to be a captain but may be announced as a vice captain.

Saeed Ajmal – First there was Saqlain Mushtaq. Then there was Shohaib Malik. Now there is Ajmal. He is a good bowler. Not a candidate for any kind of leadership position.

Abdul Razzaq – Like phoenix, he has risen back from the ashes of ICL. He used to be quite nippy. He used to be a dangerous batsman. I don’t know much about his bowling skills but he is still very dangerous and explosive as a batsman. He is one of the senior most to play in WC11. But he is one of the least likely candidates to lead the side. Seniority may result in him being a vice captain.

Rest – I don’t know much about them. Some of them may never play after WC. Some of them may retire after WC. Some of them may seek an asylum after the WC. I don’t know.

But do not forget. When a Pakistani side seems to be in a complete mess, it turns out to be most dangerous. So beware of them. I hope we get a chance to crush them again.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My team for WC11!!!

Here is my Indian team for WC11 -

1. SRT – Some thought 2003 would be his last, they were wrong. Most thought 2007 would be his last, they were wrong. All of us are thinking that 2011 will be his last but we may well be wrong. Reason is simple – he is GOD. He can play whenever he wants, wherever he wants and whoever he wants. When I write my team for WC15, he may well be the first name to appear in the list.

2. Viru – When he made his debut, most thought he was a shadow of God. The way he played in the series in SA, he looked like a pale version of his own shadow. But one must not forget that he is still a shadow of GOD. Even if he fires in one match, he will make us forget all the recent failures. But will he? Even if he doesn’t, his 30 ball 40s are good enough to keep him in the side.

3. GG – If India manages to lift the trophy on 2nd of April and GG savors the memories to tell to his great grandchildren, he will tell his biggest contribution in the victory as – “I made way for GOD so that he could open”. He will say the same, even if he is man of the tournament. He has been India’s Mr. Consistent in all formats. If the Wall was born in Delhi, he might well have been a few inches shorter in height and few meters shorter in temperament. He might well have been born as GG.

4. Yuvraj Singh – He was fighting an injury before WC07 and entire country was hoping that he makes it to WC07 because unless he fired, there were no chances of lifting the trophy. He has been fighting injuries for last couple of years. Just that some of us hope that he gets injured and is not picked up. We will still need him to score as many as possible to have any realistic chance of winning the cup but given his recent form, playing him might well dampen our chances. Yuvraj is going to be quite like marriage in this WC – not sure if it will make your life better or not, you’ve still got to do it.

5. MS Dhoni – The captain. The wicket keeper. The most reliable middle order batsman. The biggest poster boy. Maximum sponsor-money is riding on him. Period. He is yet to open his account of runs in world cup against a test playing nation. Hopefully he will do it this time.

6. Virat Kohli – When he first came to the fore, his flamboyance was a notch higher than Yuvraj’s, his attitude looked a notch worse than Yuvraj’s, walk back to the pavilion was a notch slower than Yuvraj’s. Just that his talent looked multiple notches below Yuvraj’s. He has improved. Yuvraj has worsened. He has been the most impressive of the lot which promises to be the future. On pure form basis, he will easily replace Yuvraj in top 11. But he lacks in reputation, experience and bowls seam up which may deny him a place in top 11. But he has to be selected in top 15.

7. Suresh Raina – Vinod Kambli was considered to be SRT part two till he faced few pacers from South America. Kambli was never the same batsman again. Suresh Raina was seen as India’s future, especially after his stint in IPL2 in SA, till he played second edition of T20 WC in England. He has never been the same batsman again. Raina can murder any attack if the ball doesn’t bounce above his knees or a bouncer is less than 125KPH in speed. Both conditions are likely to be met in WC11. Raina will certainly feature in top 15 but I am not sure if he is a certainty in top 11. Recently, his off spin has been pretty useful which will give him an edge over Kohli.

8. Yusuf Pathan – After tormenting most bowling attacks in IPL1, when YP came to bat against Pakistan in Kitply Cup’s final when India was chasing 300+ score, chewing gum with absolutely nonchalant attitude, Ramiz Raja said on air “Looks like Richards has come to bat”. He was right. YP, while facing bouncers, looks exactly the same what Richards will look when he is 80 years old. But on a flat deck, when the ball is not doing anything, he looks like what Richards would have looked when he was 25. YP will be a big gamble. If he clicks, any target is achievable. If he doesn’t, he is forgettable. But if you don’t take a gamble in a world cup, where conditions are likely to suit YP’s strength, when will you take it. His bowls useful off spin which might go in his favor against Kohli.

9. Harbhajan Singh – He is our number 1 spinner who can bat reasonably well. He is a good fielder. He is certain for top 11.

10. Zaheer Khan – Z is one of the best in the world as far as test cricket is concerned. Same may not be true about ODIs. Still, he is the best pacer we have and we will have to hope that he remains 100% fit. His guile will be crucial if we have any chances of winning the cup. We lost WC03 final in Z’s first over. I just hope he gets a chance to rectify that mistake as this world cup may well be his last.

11. Ashish Nehra – Only reason Ashish Nehra doesn’t play test cricket is that he will not last for 5 days. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong in his bowling – he still has some speed, probably only bowler who can be expected to bowl well in slog overs, can bowl Yorkers and is good with old ball. As a batsman Nehra belongs to the class of bowlers who think “I have no business batting here. I better get out and bowl”. As a fielder, he can surely pick up the ball and throw.

12. Praveen Kumar – Praveen Kumar is a good bowler under the lights. He can swing the new ball. Biggest problem for MS will be what to do with him after his first spell. His comeback spells have often been catastrophic for his own team. He wanted to learn bowling slow balls but his coach told him “Don’t do it son. Your normal ball is so slow; your slow ball may never reach the batsman”. But PK is a very skillful bowler especially in ODIs. He is a decent fielder and is surely not the worst batsman in the side. You need talent to snatch away that title from Ashish Nehra.

13. R. Ashwin – R Ashwin has done everything to claim a spot in national team. He has very good record at domestic level especially in terms of economy rates. He is a decent batsman. And if this was not enough, he played for Chennai Super Kings. Finally he got his chance last year and didn’t do too badly. R Ashwin may get a spot in top 11 if India is playing only two pacers.

14. S. Sreesanth – Sree is India’s fastest bowler. He can swing the ball both ways. He can be lethal when it comes to reverse swing. But he can be fatal to his own team. On his day, he is just unplayable – in T20 WC07’s semi final against Australia, he gave away just 12 runs in 4 overs. Matthew Hayden just couldn’t play him. If it’s not his day, you wish he had never played cricket. In T20 WC07 final, he gave away 21 runs in his first over. Imran Nazir made him think if cricket was the right career for him. But, Sree should be picked because other option – Ishant Sharma is worse than him.

15. Robin Uthappa – Surprise, surprise. Okay. What if MSD wakes up on 19th of February and realizes that all he can do for the entire day is sit in the toilet. Who will keep wickets? In WC03, we had Rahul Dravid and Parthiv Patel. In WC07 we had MSD and Rahul Dravid. Who do we have as a backup keeper in WC11? Our options are Saha, Karthik, Parthiv and Uthappa. Among the lot, Uthappa is the best hitter – something required at number 7. With selectors choosing to replace SRT by PP in ongoing series, looks like PP is the most serious contender for reserve keeper’s spot. He may be a specialist and better keeper than Uthappa but he is yet to play a straight drive in his career. As far as being better keeper is considered, ask Anil Kumble. Kumble might well ask you back “Does he keep wickets?” Hence, Uthappa is my choice for reserve keeper.