Time for Team India to lay blueprint for 2023 World Cup

The selectors are convinced that India’s strength at the 2023 World Cup would be better than it is at present. Only the team needs to be remain positive.

Four years hence: Virat Kohli will be 34 at the time of the next World Cup in India, four years down the road.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The semifinal loss to New Zealand in the World Cup is going to hurt Indian cricket for some time. This was a perfectly crafted combination, forget the debate over the No. 4 slot, and Virat Kohli must be brooding and coach Ravi Shastri obviously feeling distraught at the lost opportunity.

Shastri had watched the epic 1983 triumph from the dressing room and here he was the master of the ring, guiding a young bunch to conquer the opponents.

But the script went wrong and India ended up losing to a rival which was better organised and determined to cross the line first.

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The playing conditions in England were supposed to tax the Indians and they did, demanding a much improved approach when batting and far more discipline when bowling. Everything fell into place, despite the lone loss (to England) in the league phase.

Yet, India finished at the top of the table and that was some indication of the overall strength and preparation of the squad. New Zealand, however, played its role of an underdog splendidly and took over the reins at the appropriate time.

India will have to wait four more years to try and lay its hands on the Cup. The 2011 win at home was a result of some sound tactical planning — mostly flat pitches and a slow turner for the semifinal against Pakistan.

What can one expect from India in 2023 when it plays the host? Would it be a repeat of the 2011 edition? It is surely difficult to say but safe to conclude that as the home team India would be a firm favourite.

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The playing conditions would dictate the course of the tournament. The sub-continent offers the batsmen paradises for run-scoring at most venues. Flat tracks make the game interesting even if it means a nightmare for the bowlers.

But then the game is designed for the batsmen, who entertain the spectators, and the broadcasters, who bring in the money. It is a cycle which binds the stakeholders in times when there is a growing challenge from other sports.

Essentially, one can expect world cricket to witness a new order four years down the line. Most teams would be without some of the stalwarts who embellished the 2019 edition in England, considered an ideal place to host such a tournament.

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There was criticism regarding the scheduling of the matches when aware of the rainy season but in the end it went off well. The sub-continent would certainly be ready to play the host in conditions that can make cricket exciting.

Looking ahead, one can warm up to the idea of having Pakistan play at various venues. In four years, some of their current players, especially Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi, would have grown into stars of the circuit.

South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka would have shed their disappointing runs and sorted out their issues. Bangladesh would back itself as one of the strong favourites and why not? It is one team which has shown a steady progress.

India, Australia, England and New Zealand would have grown in stature to stake their claims. It is going to be a huge task for the Indian selectors to set a goal for 2023, from identifying the core group and keeping it together with at least three claimants for each slot.

The team would miss M. S. Dhoni and the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Dinesh Karthik. Dhoni would be 43 and Dhawan 37, not the best age to maintain top class fitness and athleticism. Rohit Sharma, at 36, would face fitness issues. Virat, at 34, would be nearing the end of the road.

It is bowlers like Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who would struggle to stay in contention. Players like Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja would be lucky to stay in contention.

Four years from now, one can expect talented players like Shubman Gill, Khaleel Ahmed, Avesh Khan and Rishabh Pant to take responsibility.

The selectors are convinced that India’s strength at the 2023 World Cup would be better than it is at present. Only the team needs to be remain positive.