Ah, the almighty time – it flies and flies fast. Feels like yesterday when entire nation was on the roads celebrating India’s world cup victory.
Fast forward 4 years. Here we are. Year 2015.
What has changed?
From a man who was ridiculed as leader who doesn't talk, we have moved to a leader who is known for his talks – politics or test cricket, you decide.
Sachin has retired.
Shahid Afridi is still playing.
Sharma, the Ishant one, is India’s most capped test player in the current lot.
I have one more son.
What has not changed?
Sachin is still the brand ambassador for this world cup.
Shahid Afridi has announced his retirement.
Sharma, the Rohit one, is still just a talented batsman - nothing more or less.
Irfan Pathan, India’s most needed cricketer, is still looking to get fit. Though he has played a few seasons of IPL in between.
My salary is still the same.
Oh well. Let’s leave it at that. Let’s look at what we should be looking at. Let’s look at the team.
MS Dhoni – Forget batting, keeping, leading, press conferences, cracking poor jokes or any other skills MSD brings to the team, MSD’s biggest utility will be – in the event we do not defend the title, we can focus completely on him to blame for the debacle. Others will be spared. Not an unimportant role at all.
His keeping? Well it is on a decline. His batting? Last time he “finished” a match was in 2013. His captaincy? Wonder what Mike Brearly would've done with current bowling side? But then, people still tout him as the best we have. They aren't totally wrong.
Prediction for the world cup - Wish you luck captain. If we win, your luck will be pointed out. You know you are doomed otherwise.
Virat Kohli – He is the best. Period. Every time India has needed to win a match in half of allocated overs to keep up with their battered run rate, Virat has hammered opposition. Every time India has needed a batsman in a knockout match, Virat has hammered the opposition. In fact every time India has played an opposition, Virat has hammered the opposition. Well almost. Every time opposition didn't have a bowler named James Anderson, Virat has hammered the opposition.
Prediction for the world cup - India will rest all their hopes on Virat like they rested their hopes in 1992 world cup on – Sachin Tendulkar. Or 1996 world cup. Or 1999. Or 2003. 2007. 2011.
Rohit Sharma – For Rohit’s fans, he is that first love that you know you would never get, yet you cannot give up on it. And that first love, it keeps teasing you with regular – “Hi, how are you? Can you do me a favor” kind of tortures. For every innings in which he gifts his wicket to opposition, there is one THAT shot which you cannot forget. For every series that he fails, there is one THAT innings of 40s in which he looked all set to get Bradman turn in his grave. For every year that he fails, there is one double hundred in a match. In an ODI match.
Prediction for the world cup – he will play one unforgettable innings. Most likely it will come in a warm up match (like T20WC2009) or against minnows. Post that, he will play like Rohit we all know. Well, we all do.
Shikhar Dhawan – How times change. It was year 2013 when Shikhar Dhawan could do nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing wrong. People laughed at him when he was handed his test cap. He responded with one of the most memorable debut centuries by an Indian. People wondered if he would play in alien conditions. He rocked Champions Trophy 2013.
Then he mocked an injured Shane Watson. After that, he could hardly do a thing right. Hardly anything right. He gets out to bouncers. He gets out to full balls. He gets out to off spinners. He gets played on. He even gets out to Mitchel Marsh.
Another problem Dhawan faces is batting with Rohit who takes ages to get going at the start. People say that Rohit makes up for it later. In India, he does. Outside India, he doesn't. Dhawan suffers. So does the team.
Prediction for the world cup – I predict him to do better than expected. But that also depends on how much you are expecting from him. For me, I am not expecting much.
Ajinkya Rahane – Going into the world cup, Rahane is India’s second best batsman. Not in terms of his record but in terms of hope he provides. In longer format of the game, he is fast gaining reputation of VVS – always scoring when things aren’t going smoothly. In shorter format of the game, he is fast gaining reputation of Rohit Sharma – someone who has the ability but somehow it isn’t reflected in the records. But then, seeing the form in ongoing test series (although not correct parameter), I am confident that Rahane will be our second best bet in WC15. That’s quite scary considering our second best bet in batting in last world cup was Sehwag. And Yuvraj. And Gambhir. And Dhoni.
Prediction for the world cup – Rahane will do well. Really well. Assuming he crosses single digit (38% dismissals in single digits), 40s (10%), 60s (10%) and 90s.
Suresh Raina – Suresh Raina should’ve been an Australian. Because it’s yellow which gets the best out of him. He has been around for 8 years – quite a long period. Raina doesn't like short stuff anyways. Okay. PJ.
While not very long ago, whenever Raina was picked in the side, people cited his CSK connections as sole reason behind it. How times change. Off late there were demands of his inclusion in the test side and nobody complained when it happened. Never thought I would live to see such a day. But then, miracles do happen. In the world cup, he would be expected to get fast runs down the order, slow down the run rate in the middle overs and save every run which may or may not be possible.
Prediction for the world cup – One awesome half century or maybe century, few 30s and rest of the time getting caught on bouncers/sucker balls.
Ambati Rayudu – Rayudu was next big thing in 2004. Eleven years later, he is still fighting for his place in final eleven. India would hope that their backup keeper is never needed to don the gloves. Not sure if he will get to play in every game. While he may be seen as someone who provides stability in the batting lineup full of dashers, his fielding and bowling may lose out to Raina. Some may say its Raina’s yellow jersey. Whenever India decides to go with 5 bowlers, Rayudu will lose out. Rayudu will lose out in lot of other scenarios also.
Prediction for the world cup – In whichever game he plays, MSD will give him strike. Unless it is in MSD’s favorite match moments, the slog overs.
Sir Jadeja – The fact that selectors have risked selecting not fully fit Sir for world cup is proof enough for his value. Even with an injured shoulder, Sir can throw the ball faster than a tracer bullet. All I have got to say about him is – he is SIR. That’s it.
Prediction for the world cup – If India has to win the world cup, Sir will have to do well. Like Champions Trophy 2013. Otherwise, it will be like T20WC2009.
R Ashwin – In WC11, everyone complained of Harbhajan Singh blocking Ashwin’s, supposedly the best LOI spinner in the country, way. 4 years later people complain about state of spin bowling in India and say – “Look how bad we are. Ashwin being India’s best spinner”. How times change. However, considering the strength of our tail which is as strong as West Indian tail, Ashwin is indispensable. Doesn’t matter the bowling. Doesn't matter the fielding.
Prediction for the world cup – He will make everyone say, “Maybe it’s time we should start seeing a Steve Smith in him”
Akshar Patel – Poor man’s Sir Jadeja.
Prediction for the world cup – Sir’s detractors will keep shouting that he is rich man’s Sir Jadeja.
Ishant Sharma – If you are too disappointed with his selection and hoping he wouldn't be fit enough to play the world cup, let me scare you a bit – so far, Ishant has been India’s best bowler on this tour. But then, ODI is a different ball game altogether. People like James Faulkner play in it.
Prediction for the world cup – Ishant has bowled rubbish in the past and helped India snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Ishant has bowled rubbish in the past and helped India snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Which Ishant will turn up on which day? That’s something even Ishant cannot predict.
Mohammad Shami – I am not sure where to begin about Shami. That’s because there isn't much to write. He has bowled well in patches. When he performs poorly in test cricket, people say he is an ODI bowler. When he bowls poorly in ODIs, people say ODIs are spoiling him. It’s a vicious cycle.
Off late he has started to assume role of Zaheer Khan. Not in bowling. In batting. He comes. He slogs. He gets out. That makes him realize he isn’t Zaheer but Shami. He bowls like Shami. It’s a vicious cycle.
Prediction for the world cup – He is our best bet for death overs. He would often bowl a few yorkers but mostly would go for a runs. Not necessarily in same order.
Umesh Yadav – Umesh is a large hearted bowler. After all it does take a big heart to leak more than 6 runs per over in test cricket. Off late, entire country has been demanding one thing – “We need bowlers with pace”. Umesh, along with Varun Aaron, seems to have taken up the job of making everyone realize the old Chinese saying – “Be careful what you wish for”
Prediction for the world cup – He would blow the opposition away in one match. That would be a practice match. You wouldn’t want to hear rest of the prediction. Trust me.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar – Before this tour began, we all knew Bk could bat well, BK could bowl well and BK could field well. Alas, on this tour we have all been asking one question – Can he play? There have been some suggestions on why BK wouldn’t be able to swing the ball in Australia because of Kookaburra ball. I never understood that. But if first innings of Sydney is considered, BK is looking more like Bharath Arun than BK himself. Let’s hope that he bowls as well as he has done in the past and ensures our tail isn’t as short as a Doberman’s tail.
Prediction for the world cup – At least one MOM performance by him, most likely in NZ.
Stuart Binny – His father selects people to play cricket, his wife present shows on cricket and Stuart plays cricket. For ages MSD has been wishing for a medium pacer all-rounder. Binny recently claimed that he has added some pace to his bowling and now bowls between 125-130 kph. Isn’t that’s the speed of MSD’s bowling as well?
Anyways, Binny is in the side. To bowl a bit. To bat a bit. To field a lot. And carry drinks sometimes. I hope he turns out to be Sunil Walson on 1983. I also hope 2015 turns out to be 1983.
Prediction for the world cup –No matter what he does, whatever he does, his first name Stuart will be taken over by Roger and his last name Binny will be taken over by Langer – in terms of coverage.
Like it or not, this is the team we have.
What I predict for the world cup?
We win. Okay, that’s more of hope. But then, if I don’t think we are going to win the cup, why would I follow the tournament.
Or let us cut the philosophical crap and just say - We will win.