Sunday, February 13, 2011

Injuries to India could hurt million hopes

 by=punem sexenaIndia’s World Cup campaign might just have started on the wrong foot, when Praveen Kumar was declared injured and out. Not that the medium-pacer is irreplaceable, but it is never a good sign when you have to call in a substitute even before the tournament has started.

S Sreesanth is indeed an able candidate to step in for Praveen and had his attitude not been an issue, he might have been in the squad in the first place. Yet, the loss is a jarring note for India in the run-up to the World Cup.

That, however, does little to dent the ‘favourites’ status that India enjoy, with a line-up that boasts of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Incidentally, all three have been on the injured list this year.

Has there been an overdose of cricket for Team India before the World Cup? Let’s hope not. Roger Binny hinted so, recently and hoped that the bowlers would remain fit throughout the tournament. True, a good batting show would have to be backed up by a fitting bowling performance. The likes of Zaheer Khan have suffered breakdowns in the past. We can only hope the ghost of excess cricket does not come back to haunt India.

Talking about injuries, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has great confidence in his fitness, brushing aside suggestions that a second wicketkeeper might have proved useful. A second wicketkeeper is always an unnecessary baggage if the first choice remains fit throughout. But then, in case Dhoni gets injured (God forbid), what happens? Do we see Sehwag donning the gloves? Will he be able to do the job? South Africa can do without a second wicketkeeper as they have AB de Villiers, who can comfortably stand behind the wickets if required. India, unfortunately, do not have that luxury. Wicketkeeping is a specialist job and you just can’t expect a Sehwag or a Gambhir take up that role without any reluctance.

But then, didn’t Rahul Dravid do it under Sourav Ganguly? Dada, like Dhoni, wanted some flexibility in the team composition and used Dravid behind the wickets to give himself some extra options. The Wall might not have relished the role, but stood up when it counted. Maybe he was no Nayan Mongia, but he did give his skipper that option to include an extra batsman or a bowler when required.

Dispensing of a second wicketkeeper gives Dhoni that flexibility, and he used that to add an extra spinner to his basket. On the sub-continent wickets, an additional spinner at your disposal does give you some more variety, but then perhaps it does compromise the team’s position in case of injuries.

India have many part-time spinning options, apart from the frontliners. However, what they don’t have are the replacements for the likes of Zaheer and Dhoni. If any of the key players are forced to miss out on a game or two, India might have a problem at hand. But then, Dhoni’s confidence is infectious. Millions of Indians believe he won’t need a back-up. Let’s hope for India’s sake, they are right.
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