India need to play to potential to lift World Cup again, writes Aakash Chopra
It seems like yesterday when MS Dhoni hit Kulasekara for a six and followed it by the trademark twirl of his bat — India became the world champions then after an agonizing wait of 28 long years.
MS Dhoni. Pic/Getty Images
It's perhaps this gap of almost three decades between our first and second World Cup win that every drop of sweat spent in regaining the trophy has meant so much.
Winning the trophy had been tough in the 80s but the effort to retain it had been tougher all through the years. No wonder, it's just the great West Indies in the 70s and Australia, more recently, who have been the only two teams to do that successfully.
The right mix
For India to achieve the improbable, they'll not only have to pick the right team but also play to their potential. The good thing is that while India's fortunes have hit a nadir in Test cricket overseas, its ODI form is still robust.
Most of the players not only know their respective roles in the side, but have also shown that poor Test form doesn't affect their ODI form.
India got a mauling in the Test series in England, but dutifully returned the favor in the ODI series that followed.
I have little doubt in my mind that the series loss to Australia in the longer format will have any bearing on India's ODI form Down Under.
The selectors are expected to meet and decide the 15 member squad for the World Cup today. It's a blessing that there aren't too many places up for grabs, for only a settled side can realise its potential. If players aren't sure of their places in the side, it's a given that they'll first play to secure their place and then play for the outcome.
Let's look at the probable team a bit closely. Openers: there are three solid contenders here — Rohit, Rahane and Dhawan. I prefer the Dhawan-Rahane combine more, but that's a minor consideration while picking the side, for the three of them select themselves.
As for the middle order, Kohli, Raina, Rayudu and Dhoni are set in stone too. While there were doubts over Rayudu's place for the World Cup till the ODI series against Sri Lanka, his century at Ahmedabad sealed his spot.
There are three spinners in the running and, in fact, almost confirmed of their berth in the 15. Ashwin, Axar and Jadeja seal the three slots. Moving on to the pacers, the question that the selectors need to answer is whether they want four or five of them.
Since three of them will be playing in almost every single game and considering the lack of penetration in this department, it might be prudent to pick five. Bhuvneshwar, Umesh, Shami, Ishant and Aaron could be the five options.
In case the selectors wish for an extra batsman in place of a fast bowler, it will be a toss-up between Vijay and Uthappa. I'm tempted to have an extra bowler though.