The talking point of India’s Cricket World Cup squad is about the Eleventh batsman, who should be a reliable all-rounder.
The team is in desperate need of someone capable of setting a good target in case of top-order collapse, or chasing and finishing the game along with Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in tight situations.
Kapil Dev, one of India’s greatest all-rounders, was instrumental in India’s first 50-Over World Cup victory in 1983. The country waited for almost three decades to reclaim the ultimate prize in cricket. In 2011, Yuvraj Singh, an all-rounder, did the magic.
His form at the last World Cup was sensational, winning him the Man of the Series Award.
Since then, Singh has been on a rollercoaster ride, beating a rare form of cancer, overcoming fitness issues and facing selection challenges to finally hitting the top form at home, just before the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) selectors met.
Media frenzy was in full swing in anticipation of Singh’s return, only to be surprised by Stuart Binny ousting him.
Binny has had declining run in First Class Cricket. Representing Karnataka, Binny ended the 2011-2012 Ranji Trophy Season as the team’s leading run-getter with an average of 67.45 in eight matches, with 20 wickets at 20.10.
The following year, he averaged 47.07 runs with the bat and had 19 wickets to his name.
During the last season, he scored 443 runs at an average of 43.22, and taking 14 wickets at 32.64.
These are not convincing figures for World Cup selection. At the point of selection, his international batting average was a scanty 13.33, with nine wickets, six of which were against Bangladesh.
However, he showed some promise in the first encounter against England in the ongoing Tri-series in Australia, where India was out-classed in every department of the game.
Thanks to the dreadful performance of the regulars, Binny stood out with his highest international score of 44. It would have done Binny plenty of good to watch Blackcap Luke Ronchi perform in the match against Sri Lanka in Dunedin on January 23, 2015. That match showed how a team can successfully build a good score, even with five wickets down for under 100 runs.
The rest of India’s squad had been predictable. At the top of the order, Rohit Sharma oozes talent, having demonstrated his proficiency in the warm up games. He however suffers from ‘starting trouble.’ His initial time at the crease can be frustrating and tense to watch, but once he crosses the 30-40 run mark, he is a treat.
A big worry remains with his opening partner, Shikhar Dhawan, who has continued his poor form from the test series against Australia. His consistent struggle against rising deliveries on Australian bouncy pitches seems as predictable as Suresh Raina’s battle against short-pitched deliveries. Ambati Rayadu can pair Sharma but has not had the opportunity of a continued run in the final Eleven selection. He usually comes in to replace an injured player and hence must be tried with a string of games in succession.
Ajinkya Rahane provides solid support at Number 3 but an early exposure to the new ball means a contained run-rate at the top of the innings.
With creditable performance and consistency, expectations are high on Virat Kohli. This is ‘Sachin-Mania’ all over again. Raina and Dhoni come in with a fair amount of reliability and experience in the middle order. However, heavy reliance on Dhoni finishing the job should not be tested too often.
Binny has compatriot and fellow all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in the middle order.
He has now had three months’ practice carrying drinks in Australia. One would hope that his injuries have been sorted, as he desperately needs match-practice before the big game against arch-rivals Pakistan on February 15. Jadeja has proved to be a match-winner with the ball and needs to be fully fit and acclimatised to the conditions.
There are many famous bowlers in the squad, with the exception of Axar Patel, who made a recent breakthrough, joining Ravichandran Ashwin as a spinner.
Pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami provide a well-paced and intelligent bowling combination. Both have the ability to swing the ball that can prove very handy.
Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav have the pace. India would have less worries of conceding quick runs if these bowlers combine pace with consistent line and length.
With Jadeja also in the squad, a Singh-type player would probably have mattered more.
But India has not had a fast-bowling all-rounder since Then again, India hasn’t had a fast-bowling all-rounder since Kapil Dev. Irfan Pathan showed promise, only to fade away to First Class Cricket.
I sincerely hope that Binny can prove his critics wrong.
The Team: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain, Wicket Keeper), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Stuart Binny, Umesh Yadav.
Ravi is a Project Management professional evincing keen interest in Cricket and has been an umpire for Auckland Cricket. He lives in Auckland.
Too much reliance on too few? Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Suresh Raina of the Indian Squad for World Cup Cricket