Every four years the Indian public awaken to the phenomenon of cricket's World Cup. During the few months preceding the World Cup, cricket becomes a religion, an absolute passion with the millions of fans and well-wishers - not to mention unofficial selectors like myself.
I intend to select my 15 based purely on the ability of an individual to perform in the cool climes of England in May at the end of the English winter. The weather at this time will be something alien to most of the cricketing countries with the exception of New Zealand who play in such weather during their season. We must understand that cricket in England at this time is not going to be easy, especially for our batsman who are used to favourable conditions in the sub-continent.
The ball will swing for most of the innings, in fact prodigiously in the first few overs. Slam-bang starts, if attempted could therefore prove disastrous. A better approach will be to keep wickets in hand for the second half of the innings without worrying too much about the run-rate in the early overs. Compared to innings played on the sub-continent, the run rate in the initial overs is bound to be slow.
I think our team must understand that batting conditions are going to be as difficult for the fielding side, so there is no need to panic if things are not going well. I think our first 5 batsman pick themselves on the sheer weight of their experience (They total close to 1000 one-day games together - definitely the most experienced top order in the world).
very useful especially since the cold and possibly wet weather may not allow our spinners to grip the ball properly. Here I expect Saurav and Robin, not to mention Sachin to play an important role as backup to Srinath, Prasad and Agarkar. Click here to read more
I don't think India will go into a match with two spinners. A better alternative will be to play three specialist seamers in Srinath, Prasad and Agarkar with Sachin bowling his bit of everything. Anil Kumble is experienced enough to adjust quickly and he has successfully played county cricket in 1995. With Robin and Saurav also capable of filling in, we will have a very decent attack. But if the weather is good and wicket hard, I will play Nikhil Chopra instead of either Prasad or Agarkar because he is capable of bowling a tight line, and striking the ball hard as well.
It is important to pick the three reserves (we have already chosen 12 so far) with a clear picture as to their role in the side (in case they need to play). I will definitely have Ramesh in the 15 - to fill in for either of the openers in case we require them in the middle-order - let's not forget that Sachin and Saurav are originally middle-order batsmen. Since we have a replacement for a middle-order player we can concentrate on filling the remaining two slots with all-rounders.
The only all-rounders remaining are Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Hrishikesh Kanitkar. I will pick both. Kanitkar has been in good form off late and with lots of match practice behind him, a safer bet than Kambliwho needs another two or three months before he is match fit.
It is always a good idea to select one youngster based on his potential and since all the pundits agree that Shukla has got raw talent, it will be a good move to select him since the conditions could favour him and he can only improve from the experience.
Therefore my squad (the first eleven play in the first game) will be: Sachin, Saurav, Rahul, Azhar, Jadeja, Robin, Mongia, Agarkar, Kumble, Srinath , Prasad, Nikhil Chopra, Ramesh, Kanitkar and Shukla.