A season of too little

A season of too little

If the objective at the start of the season, one of many but the prime objective nonetheless, was to find the right team to defend the World Cup, then I'm afraid this was the season of littles.

A Test series against a disgruntled West Indies would have told us little and the alternative, a five-game One Day International series against Sri Lanka will tell only a little bit more.

And so it has been a "little" home season without a single Test match and it means India have had a pretty uneventful time which should be unacceptable to fans, networks and administrators alike.

But you must play with what you have and so India must seek to learn as much as possible from five games against Sri Lanka.

The conditions here will be very different from those that will await them in Australia and New Zealand.

As a sampler, Australia have picked a team to play South Africa at Perth without a single spinner. India play two games at Perth and even though I suspect the tracks will have been equalised a bit, and India will have been in Australia for 21/2 months by then, it gives you an indicator of how different it will be from Cuttack and Kolkata.

Unless there is something dramatic in the air, or on the surface, India will almost certainly play two spinners at the World Cup.

Quite apart from that being a strength, those are the only two bowlers who bat! I am not completely certain India will take three spinners to the World Cup but if they do, that is one slot they will seek to learn a bit more about.

Akshar Patel is being seen as an all-rounder but Kuldeep Yadav showed he could bat in the Duleep Trophy semi-final too.

Hopefully with big grounds in Australia (but definitely not in New Zealand!), a leg spinner might get some support too but India must make up their minds quickly about Amit Mishra.

He knows a thing or two about the bench, having inhabited it for so long, but keeping him there helps nobody.

Everyone wants to see Shikhar Dhawan score a few runs and while he got a half century against the West Indies, it wasn't the kind of innings he can play. Runs are admittedly a big source of confidence but he will be aware he needs to do much more.

Interestingly the debate about the opener's slot has been confined to whether to play Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma (it is a good sign that both want to play there!) but, if Dhawan doesn't play at least one dominating innings in this series, the scope of that debate may get widened.

As things stand there are only 15 who can be picked and there isn't room for too many spare batsmen. Ambati Rayudu has done what has been asked of him but if a third opener is felt necessary, and India want a batsman who can keep wickets, his could be the place that gets thrown open. He is guaranteed three games and in one of those he must seal his spot.

It will be hugely unfortunate if Wriddhiman Saha's injury keeps him out. It was felt for long that he was a pure keeper, the best in the country, but that he needed to do more with the bat (in spite of, fortuitously, playing a Test for India as a batsman!).

He got the opportunity at Kings XI and it hasn't gone unnoticed. But if a second keeper has to be in the World Cup squad, he will have to make it as a top six batsman and Robin Uthappa, Naman Ojha and Sanju Samson are all contenders for that postion.

We must be careful, though, not to read too much into these batting performances because Sri Lanka are a depleted side, arriving here without Malinga, Lakmal, Herath and Mendis.

They might be a bit underdone too not having played much cricket and indeed, having planned for a later start to the season.

They have more games than India though to finalise a squad, with two series of seven matches each against England and New Zealand!

But for India this is the final rehearsal, for the team that plays the tri-series from mid-January will be the team that plays the World Cup.

tabla@sph.com.sg


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