Team selection is about presenting a wholesome package with the right balance. Krishnamachari Srikkanth's committee can say with confidence that they have done a fair job. They have given Mahendra Singh Dhoni a strong, balanced side, which, on paper, looks well-equipped to be a leading contender
for the 2011 World Cup crown.
The batting line-up is intimidating and the bowling combination has been picked keeping playing conditions in mind. Srikkanth & Co have stuck to the tried and tested and rewarded consistent performers. Thirteen of the players picked themselves and the last two places have been awarded to spinners, clearly a case of horses for courses. The only selection open to debate is the committee's decision to choose an extra spinner. For some experts having three spinners in 15 - Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin and Piyush Chawla - is a luxury as Dhoni is not known to play a two-spin combination.
Describing the thought behind picking a large spin contingent, Srikkanth said: "Don't forget that you are playing in India. The spinners play a very major role on turning wickets. I am confident that the kind of balance we have, the kind of batting line-up we have, this team led by Dhoni will do the job for us."
Srikkanth's argument is backed by history. In the two 1987 and 1996-97 World Cups played in the sub-continent, India had three spinners in the squad. Maninder Singh, L Sivaramakrishnan and Ravi Shastri in 1987; and Anil Kumble, V Raju and Aashish Kapoor in 1996. Some experts are not convinced that there's a need for two similar type of spinners in Harbhajan and R Ashwin, both off-spinners. However, talking from personal experience at the 1987 Cup, Maninder, backed the selection.
Even then, India played two spinners with similar styles in most of their games with Maninder partnering Shastri. "I am fully satisfied with the bowling combination. Harbhajan and Ashwin both should play. We play three pacers and one spinner to counter the slog overs and power plays. Ashwin has shown that he is equipped to handle that," he said. The strength of the side is that the team's nucleus has been well established over the last couple of years. They have performed consistently both at home and outside to earn the World No. 2 ranking.
Bowling will be key to India's chances. The batting line-up led by Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir is imposing and if Harbhajan & Co come to the party, the hosts will be a tough team to beat. The confidence is palpable as Srikkanth declared after chairing his selection panel's most important meeting: "We are confident this team will do well and win the World Cup for us in front of the home crowd."