Cricket World Cup: Will the Chickens Come Home to Roost for India Fans?

Linus Fernandes@mktimeforsportsAnalyst IIMarch 17, 2011

MS Dhoni: Feeling the heat?
MS Dhoni: Feeling the heat?Gallo Images/Getty Images

Team India have played five games in the ICC ODI World Cup 2011. They have won three games, tied one and lost one.

The three victories have come against weaker teams like Ireland, Bangladesh and the Netherlands. A tie with England and a loss to South Africa means that, with one game left, India could either top the group or, heaven forbid, not qualify.

The media has gone into overdrive as to India’s chances of not qualifying for the quarterfinal. That’s a remote possibility, but one that would occur only if England beat the West Indies, Bangladesh beat South Africa and India lose their final game to the Windies.

That would leave Net Run Rate (NRR) to decide who would go through between England and India.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni must be wondering what hit him. Not so long ago, he was the blue-eyed boy of Indian cricket who recently led India to a historic 1-1 series draw in South Africa.

The Indian team assumed No. 1 Test status under his leadership and is currently joint second in one-dayers together with South Africa.

This is the curse or magic of the World Cup. Nothing less than victory will do for the many supporters of the Indian cricket team, especially when playing at home and in familiar conditions.

Everybody (with a remote) is captain of the Indian cricket team, every Indian fan, that is.

Monsieur Ricky Ponting will sympathise.

It has not helped that India’s campaign has all the ingredients of a pot-boiler.

The World Cup has drawn blood before. Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid were victims in 2007.

Gary Kirsten will exit after the World Cup—irrespective. Will the Cup see the demise of MS Dhoni’s captaincy?

Moving on to more immediate matters, what should the composition of the team be on Sunday in the game against the Calypso Kings?

In all probability, the match will be inconsequential. No one really expects the Bengal Tigers to upset the South Africans, despite home advantage.

The result will decide bragging rights in Group B and quarterfinal matchups.

Should it really matter? After all, it’s about winning all three games from then on. It should not matter who you play.

Will Dhoni experiment with his lineup? Television pundits have made it clear that they expect R Ashwin, Suresh Raina and S Sreesanth to be in the playing 11.

How can Dhoni accommodate their diktats?

MS Dhoni has claimed that the men in blue are finding it difficult to jell as a unit. Players have not all been together simultaneously over the past year.

That is true. Sachin Tendulkar played just two one-dayers in 2010, Piyush Chawla had not represented India since 2009, and Sreesanth is an after-thought.

However, India has not performed badly in the master’s absence, especially at home.

Dare I make a suggestion that MS Dhoni rest the great man against the West Indians?

Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag can open the innings.

Virat Kohli will be No. 3.

Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Yousuf Pathan can fill up the rest of the batting order.

R Ashwin, S Sreesanth, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan can do the bowling honours.

Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla and Munaf Patel can lie low.

This allows Raina, Ashwin and Sreesanth an opportunity to spread their wings before the knockout stage.

Ashish Nehra gets another chance to find his feet following the demoralising final over against South Africa.

If Raina, Ashwin and Sreesanth do well, it will be a problem of plenty for the India skipper. A good problem to have—always.

Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar will be raring to go in the quarterfinals.

Besides, these cricketers are among the chosen 15. They are expected to perform and perform as per expectations and beyond. They would not be in the squad if they did not deserve to be there.

The faith reposed in them by the selectors, their captain,coach and teammates should be repaid.

Quote of the day: 
Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage. – Woody Allen


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