Zimbabwe in India, Feb-Mar 2002
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India won by 101 runs
India 333/6 (50 ov)
Zimbabwe 232 (42.1/48 ov)

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The writer in you

A tale of missed opportunities
Asim Naeem - 13 March 2002

The current Zimbabwe series has proved quite fortunate for India. They have had a good chance to try out new talent without risking a series loss. The Zimbabwe outfit is not a team to be scared of, especially on home soil.

But just a few thoughts. It seems quite lucky that two senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Javagal Srinath were forced to miss out, for it has given a chance for the younger guys to step up and take on the mantle of responsibility. India are keeping one eye on the next World Cup in grooming these youngsters. Keeping in mind that India face off against an easy opposition on easy-paced wickets, the newly baptised players are under much less pressure to perform and therefore play their natural game.

The fact is that jumping from domestic cricket to international cricket is no joke. It is a completely new dimension, a new world. India have always had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to batting talent, with a shortage only in the fast-bowling department. India should be looking to groom medium-fast bowling all-rounders to maintain a good team formation.

Back to my topic, though; Srinath, Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag missing out meant a chance for Mohammad Kaif, Dinesh Mongia and Zaheer Khan. It was also a good time for veterans like Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman to learn to play without Tendulkar. The situation alters appreciably once Tendulkar is not playing; these three gentlemen then feel much more responsible and play much better. The present series is also an indicator that resting Srinath is a good idea, preserving him for better wickets against stronger opposition. The inclusion of Sanjay Bangar and Ajay Ratra were also intelligent moves. Deep Dasgupta is just too careless to be given a chance against quality teams, especially in the fickle environment of the one-day arena.

India have fewer opening problems in the limited-overs format than in Tests. On the one hand, they have the combination of Tendulkar and Ganguly, which I feel is the best in world cricket at the moment. Other than that, one could throw in Sehwag for an alternate opening standing, and he is also a mean hitter in the first 15 overs. I would not like to see Shiv Sunder Das in the one-day plans, as it disturbs a very good formula and he is just not good enough to bat further down the order. He is ideal for the Test arena, so it is better not to ruin his Test mindset. Dinesh Mongia is also a useful one-day cricketer and a good fielder.

The middle order is also strong, with the Dravid-Laxman-Kaif nexus coming into play. It lends a solid look to the batting, but Dravid and Laxman must remember to play within their limits and rotate the strike at regular intervals. The bonus is that all three players are also excellent fielders. India must also play with the rotation policy to give more players regular exposure and give star players enough rest and fewer risk of injuries.

Zaheer Khan has emerged as a very good attacking option and needs more playing exposure. He also needs the selectorís confidence for further improvement. Ajit Agarkar deserves a place due to his good performances and improved batting, while Bangar can fill in the role of the all-rounder. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh fill the spinnerís slots; both are attacking bowlers and are deadly on their day.

The Indian fielding has improved considerably, but Ganguly needs to improve and set a better example. It is quite fortunate that the younger players are good fielders. India has a long and tough schedule coming up, with tours to the West Indies and England, as well the ICC Cup. It is an excellent time to cement places and formulate strategy for the World Cup.

My Test team for the tours to West Indies and England would be:

Shiv Sunder Das, Mohammad Kaif, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Ajay Ratra, Javagal Srinath, Sanjay Bangar, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar.

My World Cup one day team.

Dinesh Mongia, Mohammad Kaif, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Ajay Ratra, Javagal Srinath, Sanjay Bangar, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar.

I have retained most players for both teams as I feel that they are good enough to play both versions of the game with ease. But it is up to the selectors to stick with this band of players and use the rotation policy with them only. It is not wise to blood new players in the World Cup, since the pressure will get to them. For such a high-profile tournament, all the players in the squad must be good enough to play usefully and not merely passengers.

My Test team is based on experience also, keeping in mind that the Caribbean is still a tough place for visiting sides and England are also tough home opponents. Having a reliable wicket- keeper is key; once you let Brian Lara, Carl Hopper or Chris Gayle off, they will make you pay dearly. Hence Ratra is my choice as gloveman.

I believe that, if the selectors stick with this team for the World Cup, it is good enough to reach the semi-finals at the expense of New Zealand, the other semi finalists being Pakistan (or Sri Lanka), South Africa and Australia.

The views expressed above are solely those of the guest contributor and are carried as written, with only minor editing for grammar, to preserve the original voice. These contributed columns are solely personal opinion pieces and reflect only the feelings of the guest contributor. Their being published on does not amount to an endorsement by CricInfo's editorial staff of the opinions expressed.


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