With the Indian squad for the World Cup to be announced on Monday everyone – from the fans to the players – are waiting with bated breath to see who makes the cut. As things stand around 13 cricketers can be taken as certainties and the suspense is only over a couple of players but then for these slots there are a number of candidates and who will be the lucky one and who will be the unlucky ones will be known then.
At the moment though whatever be the composition of the 15-member squad there is little doubt that the bowling looks better balanced than the batting. This is no doubt a big change for traditionally Indian cricket’s strength has been the batting. The most lustrous batting line-up in the game in the days of the Fab Four – Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid – put into the background the efforts of Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh while taking India into the World Cup final in 2003 and the title eight years later. This time however it could well be the bowling that holds the key as to whether India will perform well in the World Cup.
A well-established pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami backed up by two able spinners in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal along with utility players like Ravindra Jadeja, Vijay Shankar and Hardik Pandya form a pretty balanced line-up. The batting by comparison looks less well settled with doubts still persisting over the No 4 slot and being over dependent on the top order and MS Dhoni.
At this time one’s mind goes back to the glorious summer of 1983 when India most unexpectedly lifted the World Cup for the first time. Even on that occasion despite Kapil Dev’s unforgettable 175 not out and some invaluable contributions from Yashpal Sharma, Mohinder Amarnath and Sandip Patil it was the bowling that was chiefly responsible for the memorable triumph. Roger Binny was the highest wicket taker in the competition with 18 wickets closely followed by Madanlal (17) and Kapil (12). The ultimate proof was the bowlers defending a total of 183 in the final by bowling out the mighty West Indies for 140.
Yes, in the ultimate analysis despite the presence of the world’s best batsman Virat Kohli and others with a proven record around him it is the bowling that could play a key role if India are to perform well at the World Cup.