In less than two months, the biggest cricket tournament will be held in India, the World Cup 2023. India’s victories in 1983 and 2011 are the two milestone performances that are etched in the minds of millions of Indian cricket followers.
The effect and the halo of those victories under two legendary and brilliant Indian cricketers, Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are moments of joy and pride that India revels in, even today.
The Wankhede Stadium was the venue of that glorious hit into the stands by Dhoni in 2011 for a victory, a shot that made Indian cricket finally believe in its potential as world-beaters.
Since then, the face of Indian cricket has changed drastically as the young players who have emerged are far more aggressive, confident and focused than ever before. It transformed the attitude and perception of the way an Indian cricketer looked at the sport, as one where the player is as good if not better than anyone else playing the game.
Indian cricket, which was scaling upwards, finally established itself as the World champions in all formats of the game.
India, thereafter, got the pride of place in world cricket and the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) catapulted it to a height of utmost glory.
With such success comes expectations and to sustain one's position one needs consistency, amidst enormous pressure. Unfortunately, the Indian team, even though it is seen as one of the best in the world has not been able to deliver an ICC silverware trophy in the past 10 years.
The ODI World Cup at home in 2023 is just the ideal setting for India to recapture the glory of the 2011 victorious side. The Indian cricket team has world-class players, whether it is in batting or bowling. They have the class, the experience and the knowledge of playing in conditions familiar to them. On paper, India look to be the favourite. However, India’s past performance in major tournaments is a dampener that hangs above them.
Somehow, one feels India is still not ready, both on and off the field. The schedule of the matches has finally seen the light of day. One gathers stadiums are being spruced up on a war footing to meet the quality expected. Wickets at most venues, with the heavy monsoon rains, will need to be prepared in haste as climate change has made the normal cycle of preparation go completely awry. The task ahead for the BCCI is monumental, although, one expects it to be ready at the very last minute. One sees this happen in India at most events, seminars, and functions and it all finally falls into place somehow or the other.
The Hand of God seems to always prevail.
The worrying aspect of the WC’23 is not the administrative issues, but, the selection of the Indian squad. The BCCI has still got time till September 27 to announce the 15-member final squad, however, fitness and performances of players are still a worry.
In keeping with the exhausting schedule of the team in international cricket, one may boast of a cupboard full of players that India have to choose from. However, it is not quantity but quality that one wants in the end.
The ongoing tour of the West Indies has been a complete wash-out where preparation and choosing the Indian World Cup squad is concerned.
Although the West Indies team has beaten India in an ODI match as well as two T20s, the standard of their cricket has deteriorated and is not much to talk about. Scoring runs and getting wickets against this average side may give one the wrong indication of a player's ability.
The Asia Cup to be held at the beginning of September 2023 is an important tournament for India to finalize their WC’23 core group of players. Apart from Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja, the rest are still uncertain either because of their recent form or on account of injuries.
Hardik Pandya, as an all-rounder is essential for India, however, he will need to be fit to bowl his quota of overs. One is happy to read that he has a personal chef travelling with him for his dietary requirements, however, one feels a personal fitness trainer would have been more appropriate.
One cannot carry a player in the side who is uncertain to bowl 10 overs and this is also where the inclusion of Jasprit Bumrah is questionable. Similar fitness issues also arise regards both K.L. Rahul and Shreyas Iyer.
The Indian team at present is confused between the old and the new. The pressure of a World Cup at home can be quite unnerving. One feels India should select a young daring side. The likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Tilak Varma, Arshdeep Singh, Ryan Parag and some of the other such young performers should merit a place in the playing eleven.
Indian cricket has always fallen prey to relying on the old and trusted performers in the past and the ICC tournaments. The reason was that one felt it was better to be safe rather than sorry.
The time now is to think ahead and not worry about the outcome. A young side in 2007 won us the inaugural T20 World Cup. The blend of those youngsters with the old finally won us the 2011 World Cup.
One hopes Ajit Agarkar, who was part of that winning side, and his fellow selectors think out of the box. All eyes will now be focused on them.