Primed For Success

India’s batting has depth
 and the bowling, especially
 with fast bowlers like
 Jasprit Bumrah, can dent
 rival citadels.
K.C Vijaya Kumar
Nearly 8,000 km split India and England. But the geographical chasm failed to curtail a bond initially forged through the hard years of colonialism before finding warmth in this present juncture thanks to trade and a shared love for English, Darjeeling tea and cricket. As Virat Kohli’s men gear up to set foot in the United Kingdom for the ICC World Cup commencing on May 30, the alchemy of cricket, Indian diaspora and the global stage will get another splendid episode.
India’s tryst with the willow game’s biggest trophy has been a mixed bag, especially in England, where it was held in 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999. There were a string of lows with the lone redemptive streak found on that magical evening at Lord’s when Kapil Dev held aloft the Prudential World Cup. That distant 1983 day changed the face of Indian cricket, lent it commercial muscle, and ushered in an eternal romance with the fans.
Core picked itself
To be fair, there was not much for M. S. K. Prasad and Co. to do as selectors. Over the years, the core of the current squad has picked itself, but some marginal calls had to be made. In the past, these risky choices were the talking points.
In 2003, coach John Wright, skipper Sourav Ganguly and the selectors plumped for the all-round skills of Dinesh Mongia while overlooking V. V. S. Laxman’s batting solidity. The Hyderabad maestro was hurt and to make it worse, a soft-drink major cut his picture from the promotional billboards.
Cut to the chase, the debates linked to the Men in Blue raged around two specific slots — No. 4 batsman and reserve wicketkeeper.
There was a three-way clarification when Prasad declared that Vijay Shankar, already a certainty in the team, would cut his teeth at No. 4 while K. L. Rahul and Dinesh Karthik were preferred over Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant, respectively.
Rahul’s form and added ability with the wicketkeeping gloves tipped the scales, while Rayudu perhaps paid the price for being just a batsman especially after his spin bowling action was deemed dodgy. In the case of Karthik, he was coded as a better wicketkeeper under pressure.
The unit under Kohli has balance. There is a fair sprinkling of all-rounders, a trait that also enriched Kapil’s Devils. For India to make a mark, the openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have to fire before Kohli and M. S. Dhoni and anyone from among the all-rounders add more ballast.
The batting has depth and the bowling, especially with fast bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah, can dent rival citadels.
The multi-faceted quartet of Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja needs to contribute with bat and ball. Not all four may play together, but a minimum of two should find space based on opponents and venues. Unconventional spinners like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will have a role, too. The Indian Premier League may have been a sobering experience, but the spinners should find their mojo in England despite the landscape’s inherent bias towards the speed merchants.