Bigger events await in 2011

Dhoni has stated that the bowling department has become a cause for concern but it will not be long before the cream of batting will walk into the sunset.

Regardless of the outcome in South Africa, the New Year will pose Dhoni and his team a few challenges and it remains to be seen how well the captain responds to the challenges ahead of him.

One wonders what would be Indian cricket like without Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and even though we all know that the game will go on, the little master has spent so many years in international cricket and achieved so many milestones, the scorecard will probably sport a bare look sans one S. R. Tendulkar at number four.

The SuperSport Park it was for the master batsman to get to his 50th Test century and in a way it was an apt venue for him to achieve the feat as the former name of the ground was the Centurion Park. However, as is the case with so many of his hundreds, the little master had to once again celebrate his achievement with a mixed feeling as the team lost the match rather badly.

Not only has Tendulkar made the bowlers run out of ideas during his career, but he has also made the scribes and millions of his fans run out of words to describe his achievements.

It may be a matter of yet another day in the office and yet another century for the great man, but how on earth can one keep unearthing adjectives and phrases to match up with his deeds? With the monkey off his back, the little master can now continue to churn runs for his country which of course will be needed given the start Team India has got off to in South Africa.

The Test series with South Africa is big enough but as far Team India and Tendulkar are concerned bigger events await them in the year 2011. This is not to suggest that the results in the ongoing Test series is not of consequence as the ratings are bound to fluctuate with time but the bigger event is approaching fast.

Yes. It does not take a genius to figure out that I am referring to the World Cup. Team India has raised the expectation levels of the public with their performances in the last couple of years, (the debacle in SA notwithstanding) and hence the pressure is on the Indians to live up to the expectations.

It has been a very long wait for India to regain the most coveted title and whether Dhoni's boys will do it in 2011 is what is going on in everyone's mind. In as much as the entire squad of Team India will be keen to win the title, Tendulkar's keenness will border on desperation as this will in all probability be his last crack.

He has maintained that winning a World Cup is high on his priority list and it is a case of either 2011 or never for him on a personal level. He has figured in 5 World Cups so far and the campaigns in all those five but 2003 were nothing to write home about. The champion cricketer will be looking forward to playing and contributing his might in the campaign set to start in February and I am sure that Tendulkar will gladly swap all his achievements for the title.

The coming World Cup will assume as much significance for Dhoni as it would for Tendulkar simply because Dhoni's captaincy will be really put to test in 2011. The outcome in the World Cup will largely dictate his tenure as captain and while his head may not roll in the event of a lesser than expected result, he still has a lot of challenges in 2011 as there are a lot of away series scheduled for India.

Not that the year 2010 did not have challenges for India and Dhoni as the lacklustre performances in South Africa have given Team India enough jolts. The Indian skipper has stated that the bowling department has become a cause for concern but it will not be long before the cream of batting will walk into the sunset.

The latter half of 2011 might be the time when Dhoni and Team India will feel the need for some muscle in the batting line up as well. There is no doubt that Dravid and Laxman are accomplished but they both will realise that batting against the quicks in the late 30's is not the same as it was in their late 20's.

The New Year will kick off with the third Test in Cape Town and the Indians will look to bounce back at Newlands, thereby starting the New Year afresh and better. But the Proteas are looking a better side simply because of their bowlers being far superior than their Indian counterparts.

The Smith led side has given no quarter to the Indians and they will be keen to extend the ruthless streak well in into the third Test and one-day series. Smith has the arsenal to unnerve the Indians even in the one-day format and though South Africa seemingly lack quality spinners, they will be one of the main contenders for the World Cup.

On the other hand, Dhoni will be thinking about ways and means to revive the confidence of the team during the one-dayers which will help them psychologically for the World Cup even if the victories are achieved a few weeks before the big campaign. Regardless of the outcome in South Africa, the New Year will pose Dhoni and his team a few challenges and it remains to be seen how well the captain responds to the challenges ahead of him. My best wishes to Team India and the readers for the New Year.