Team India preview: Primed for World Cup success

India’s batting has depth and the bowling, especially with fast bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah, can dent rival citadels in the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

India opens its campaign against South Africa at Southampton on June 5 in a long-drawn round-robin venture.   -  K. V. S. Giri

Nearly 8,000km split India and England. But the geographical chasm failed to curtail a bond initially forged through the hard years of colonialism before finding warmth in this present juncture thanks to trade and a shared love for English, Darjeeling tea and cricket.

As Virat Kohli’s men gear up to set foot in the United Kingdom for the ICC World Cup commencing on May 30, the alchemy of cricket, Indian diaspora and the global stage will get another splendid episode.

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India’s tryst with the willow game’s biggest trophy has been a mixed bag, especially in England, where it was held in 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999. There were a string of lows with the lone redemptive streak found on that magical evening at Lord’s when Kapil Dev held aloft the Prudential World Cup. That distant 1983 day changed the face of Indian cricket, lent it commercial muscle, and ushered in an eternal romance with the fans.

Core picked itself

To be fair, there was not much for M. S. K. Prasad and Co. to do as selectors. Over the years, the core of the current squad has picked itself, but some marginal calls had to be made. In the past, these risky choices were the talking points.

In 2003, coach John Wright, skipper Sourav Ganguly and the selectors plumped for the all-round skills of Dinesh Mongia while overlooking V. V. S. Laxman’s batting solidity. The Hyderabad maestro was hurt and to make it worse, a soft-drink major cut his picture from the promotional billboards.

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Cut to the chase, the debates linked to the Men in Blue raged around two specific slots — No. 4 batsman and reserve wicketkeeper.

There was a three-way clarification when Prasad declared that Vijay Shankar, already a certainty in the team, would cut his teeth at No. 4 while K. L. Rahul and Dinesh Karthik were preferred over Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant, respectively.

"We are a flexible team. It's horses for courses; we have got enough ammunition. We have got enough players who can bat at four. So, I am not really worried about that,," says coach Ravi Shastri.   -  K. V. S. Giri

 

Rahul’s form and added ability with the wicketkeeping gloves tipped the scales, while Rayudu perhaps paid the price for being just a batsman especially after his spin bowling action was deemed dodgy. In the case of Karthik, he was coded as a better wicketkeeper under pressure.

The unit under Kohli has balance. There is a fair sprinkling of all-rounders, a trait that also enriched Kapil’s Devils. For India to make a mark, the openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have to fire before Kohli and M. S. Dhoni and anyone from among the all-rounders add more ballast.

The batting has depth and the bowling, especially with fast bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah, can dent rival citadels.

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Multi-faceted

The multi-faceted quartet of Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja needs to contribute with bat and ball. Not all four may play together, but a minimum of two should find space based on opponents and venues. Unconventional spinners like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will have a role, too. The Indian Premier League may have been a sobering experience, but the spinners should find their mojo in England despite the landscape’s inherent bias towards the speed merchants.

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India opens its campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5 and in a long-drawn round-robin venture, Kohli’s men need to be consistent and remain fit. And there is the small matter of playing Pakistan on June 16. History and border issues will add needless spice, but if the players can ignore the chatter, not just in that clash but through the tournament, the final on July 14 may gift a seismic wave of ecstasy from Srinagar to Salem.