Why an additional spinner in India's World Cup squad?

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 19, 2011 13:15 hrs

It is typical of the Indian cricket board to leave team selection issues unanswered and  I was least surprised when chairman Srikkanth declined to explain why Rohit Sharma was excluded in the World Cup squad or for that matter, Chawla's inclusion although it has been nearly three years since the leggie has got an ODI game.

Also, Srikkanth blew his top when a reporter queried on the fitness of several key players and I wondered why this distinguished personality should be losing his cool at all when asked a very relevant question. "What fitness? Every team has fitness concerns. Let's think positive now," he snarled at the Media.

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Whoa! I was taken aback at this man's reaction. But then, this has been the case with our celebrated Board who believes that Media is only a necessary nuisance or evil, to be manipulated at will and a use-and-dispose item. Even in the past, covering a selection committee meeting has proved to be a travail that I feel is best left to the foot soldiers of the Media who are usually awe-struck at the very sight of these cricketing personalities and are eager hungry pups looking for a bone (read byte).

Thus, we came away from the "press conference" on Monday afternoon no wiser to the question of omissions and inclusions in the World Cup squad. So, thus begins our guessing game and using some stats to unravel the selection mysteries.

On second thoughts, perhaps, it was hardly a surprise that Rohit didn't make the cut. The stats reveal that this gifted batsman has made just one half-century in 13 innings and in this context, he cannot complain about lack of opportunities. Such a pity that for a player so young and blessed with abundant talent, Rohit presents a rather rotund figure and the only six-packs we see when he is batting are courtesy the chest guard!

Chawla's inclusion defies logic, though with the team announced, it matters what anyone thinks on this subject. The point is, Dhoni has enough and more slow-bowling options even otherwise with Sehwag (92 wickets), Yusuf (30), Yuvraj (89) and even Sachin (154), if need be, capable of filling in the fifth bowler's spot.

Then there are Harbhajan and Ashwin as specialist spinners. So, I do wonder how Chawla (28 wickets in 21 matches) can be fitted in unless, Dhoni opts for two spinners and two seamers behind seven specialist batsmen in the playing eleven.

I would have opted for an additional batsman or even a seamer or a wicket-keeper-batsman to cover any eventuality, instead of Chawla, but then, we will have to go by the reasoning of the selectors and the captain who finalized the 15. Chawla being a leg-spinner, it was argued, would lend "another dimension and variety" to the bowling attack.

India's 15-member World Cup squad

For all that, Chawla is still to get a game in the ongoing ODI series in South Africa. Now that India are ahead 2-1 following two thrilling victories, it is to be hoped that the leggie is included in at least one of the two games, if only to test his current form. That would provide a better indication to his match-fitness than the two warm-up games ahead of the World Cup.

The rest of the 14 virtually picked themselves although Sehwag, Gambhir, Sachin and Praveen are on the injured list. The Board has stated that the "best possible medical treatment" would be given to the four to ensure they are fit for the first game in Bangladesh next month.

If anything, India have shown that they would be definitely among the front-runners to win the World Cup and the ODI series against South Africa has shown that even at half-strength, the team is still good enough to beat the highly-rated Proteas who have never quite shed the tag of being chokers.

The two back-to-back defeats only highlight this point even granting that the absence of Kallis has weakened the South Africans, but then, Indians are without four major players and a specialist opening batsman. Thus, the signs are good for India although the pressure and expectation would be far greater in the World Cup.

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