THE LONDON TEA PARTY - Madhavan. K
(PART II of the WC1999 Curtain Raiser)
The million dollar question in the next few days in every cricket lover's mind would be "Who would win the world cup?". Never in the history of the game has there been a more open world cup than this year's spectacle, with no clear favorites. The bookmakers of London have quoted South Africa 6:3 favorites, giving us a proper perspective as to how well all teams are matched this time around.Let's try to examine the strenghts of each one of the teams. Let me begin with the analysis of our own national side.
Fortunes of India at the world cup is going to hindge on three main factors according to me.To name them aclimatisation,team management and batting.
Traditionally Indian teams have always struggled to perform well in the early parts of an overseas tour. They take a lot of time to get familiar with the conditions prevailing overseas.The conditions in England in early half of the summer in May and June are going to be cold and windy, a huge differnce from hot,hotter,hottest sort of climate prevailing in most parts of our country.India simply cannot afford to be slow starters, for the tounament would be over before they get used to the conditions in England.
A major tournament like a world cup cannot be won with individual flair even if you have the greatest batsmen ever in your team.The Indian captain has to lead from the front and get the team to fight as a unit.Sadly, the performance of the team against Pakistan over the last few months does not inspire confidence to the Indian cricket lover.I personally feel that present Indian captain has to take most of the blame for it.Azhar is seen as a aloof person and one could feel a sense of detachment in his approach.An Indian captain simply cannot afford to have such an attitude.To me a captain should be passionate about winning and must be willing to go that extra mile.Moreover, Azhar is talked about and I beleive is a prototype captain. He is simply afraid to experiment.This quality, in my books, is a huge negative. If one just looks back at the captains of the world cup winning teams of the past viz Clive Lloyd,Kapil Dev,Allan Border,Imran Khan and Arjuna Ranatunga), they have had a great role themselves to play in these triumphs both as a captain and a player.It is the ability of these men to pull something out of the blue to surprise the opposition won their teams the most coveted cup. Can Azhar take a leaf out of their books? Only time will tell.
The biggest factor in India's favour is it's batting strength (atleast on paper). In the cold English conditions the teams that win are the teams that bat well in seaming and swinging conditions. The bowlers are always going to do well under such conditions.We have a quality bowling attack in Srinath,Prasad,Agarkar and Kumble.It is therefore very crucial that our batsmen come good. The key to India's success is ofcourse going to beSachin Tendulkar.That's the reason I beleive he should not be opening the batting in England.India cannot afford to lose Sachin very early in the innings.In England conditions the odds are heavily staked against an opening batsmen (overcast conditions,green wicket,fresh bowlers).Though Sachin has the talent to overcome these adversities, it is not worth the risk.We are not going to get tall scores in the first 15 overs of a innings in England as we get in India.Survival is going to be the order of the day in England,specially in the first 15 overs.Sachin can later on take control of the innings in the middle and end overs.This is where the captain has to step in and act.According to me half the battle is won or lost for India on Azhar's decision to open with Sachin or not.
Another factor in India's favour is the presence of a lot of batting allrounders( batsmen who can also bowl).Sachin,Saurav and Jadeja could fill in the fifth bowler's quota and may be more.India should use this to their advantage by fielding an extra batsman.If I were an Indian selector I would have selected Vinod Kambli ahead of Amay Khurasia.This is not to suggest that Amay is a any lesser player than Kambli.But the very fact that Kambli has the experience of playing in the two earlier world cups should have tilted the scales in his favour. Anyway,Khurasia is not a bad choice and for all you know could well turn out to be India's trump card.My batting order at the World cup would read Ramesh,Saurav,Rahul,Sachin,Azhar, Ajay Jadeja,Amay Khurasia(Robin Singh),Ajit Agarkar,Nayan Mongia,Anil Kumble,Srinath and Prasad. Depending on match situations there could be slight alterations in the order like Sachin and Rahul swapping places or Rahul opening with Saurav if Ramesh fails etc.By and large I have no complaints about the selection of the Indian team for the World Cup.
I think the greatest strength in the present Indian team is it's versatality.It is this virtue that the captain needs to exploit to the fullest if India were to come back with the world cup.
Can you do it for us Azhar? Well, you will have to !!!
This report was written by our special correspondent MADHAVAN.K
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