Is India ready for the World Cup?

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Published: Sunday, December 12, 2010, 10:57 [IST]
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Is India ready for the World Cup?

India has apparently hit a purple patch and is on a high after consigning New Zealand to 5-0 drubbing at home. The side is riding on 6 one-day match winning streak as they embark on the tour of South Africa. In the process, India has hit upon some consummate treasures in off-break R Ashwin and middle-order allrounder Yusuf Pathan. But can the team come together as a cohesive and indominable unit on the cricket's biggest stage - the World Cup? India has had an inconsistent time in the one-day game for the last year and half. Victories and losses have alternated, without a dominant run. In the last world encounter - the ICC

Champions League - which was held in South Africa in Sept-Oct 2009, India didn't fair well. It lost to Pakistan in its first Group A match by 54 runs with the opponents notching up a mammoth 302/9. Though India won its subsequent match against the West Indies by a comprehensive 7 wickets, it hadn't garnered enough points to make it to the semi-final of the tournament and came away empty-handed.

Then in December that year, India redeemed itself partially by inflicted a 3-1 win over Sri Lanka in a home series. In February of 2010, India hosted South Africa to a three-match series which the home-side won 2-1, with Sachin Tendulkar making a high-profile return to the format and scoring a record 200 not out in the second game.

India's most unsuccessful outing in a one-day series in the last year came in May 2010 when it took on Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in a triangular series in the latter's country. India had a forgettable time in the African nation, losing to Zimbabwe by 6 wickets in the first match, winning the second against Sri Lanka, but then losing the next two to either side, thus not making the final of the tournament.

Granted, the selection committee was fielding a virtual second-string side with premier players like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh not figuring in the XI. But still with the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan and Rohit Sharma, the touring side should have put on a better show. India struck back in the Asia Cup in June, winning two out of three matches in the group stage, while romping home by 81 runs in the final against Sri Lanka. Gambhir and Dhoni were back in the side for the tournament with Sehwag and Harbhajan just playing two out of three league matches an not make an appearance in the final.

Then came the diastrous tri-series in Sri Lanka, where India went down to New Zealand in the opening match by a whopping 200 runs. It won just two of the five matches it played in the series, losing by a heavy 74 runs in the final against Sri Lanka. Yuvraj had made a return in the side, but Gambhir and Harbhajan were conspicuous by their absence. So was Tendulkar.

Tendulkar wasn't around when India beat Australia in the lone one-dayer of the later's tour in October either. Tendulkar didn't even play in the recently-concluded one-day series against New Zealand. What is lacking for India, is a settled side as too many players are taken up and subsequently dropped while others are rested. Former India captain Kapil Dev too harped on the point that India need a fixed combination to ready for the World Cup.

Given that Tendulkar has been nowhere on the scene for most of India's one-day engagements over the past year, will be be able to blend into the World Cup squad and be at his devastating best again? Isn't he missing the match practice? Will the Asia Champions come together as a truly indominable force for the Cup of Cups? Will the 5-match series against South Africa in Jan ose as the limus test? We will have to wait and see.


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