17 March 2007

Team for Bangladesh

Harbhajan or Kumble or both?
Pathan or Uthappa?
Don't play Munaf if we play two spinners, or play him anyway?
Open with Sehwag or with Uthappa?

Four questions that Captain Dravid has to answer before he takes the toss today. And none of them have a simple answer. He wil have to follow instinct, and the clues that the matches until now have revealed. One of them: medium pacers have been getting more out of these Caribbean pitches than the spinners have. Of course, a qaulity spinner will always make his presence in the team count for a few wickets or some very tight overs. But the wisdom of packing your side with two spinners at the expense of a batsman or a medium pacer is now under a cloud. So, does that mean that Kumble will not play in this World Cup, barring some atrocious bowling from Bhajji? Perhaps, but Dravid will also have to weigh in Kumble's efficient handling of tail-enders.

Now, if we accept that Dravid has picked only one spinner, what then of the rest of the bowling? Three seamers and Pathan, or just three seamers with Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj doing extra time? Irrespective of that, the three seamers in all likelihood are Zaheer, Agarkar and Munaf. Munaf is ahead in the one-day pecking order because of his tight control. Sreesanth can bowl a higher percentage of threatening deliveries, but without too much control, he is only as useful as say, Malinga.

Not playing Pathan will provide greater firepower at the top. The choice is between Uthappa and Dinesh Kaartick, and that's not much of a choice now, is it? But we should not forget that all our part time bowlers are spinners, though Sachin can seam a few. Perhaps for variety's sake, and for depth in batting

Particularly for this match, it is good to have such great competition for spots in the side. It will ensure that not too many let their guard down. And look what happened to the Kiwis when they let tost their focus against Bangladesh. Sehwag has more than one point to prove and is just a thin edge away from the WC2007 trashcan. Uthappa needs to cement his spot. Harbhajan will feel the heat. Munaf too needs to show that he can contribute despite embarassing batting and fielding.

All in all, India should have this covered.

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