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‘A few spots up for grabs’

cricket Updated: Oct 16, 2010 23:18 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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For all young Indian players out there, either on the fringes of the national team or at the top of their game in domestic cricket, there was a clear dose of good news.

Captain MS Dhoni in conjunction with the coaching staff and the selectors sent out a strong message: There are still places up for grabs in the team that will play the World Cup at home in February next year.

Typically, in a World Cup year, planning is done well in advance, leaving little chance for a contender to stake a claim for a spot, other than in the event of a serious injury. However, India's One-Day International set up has quite a few pieces of the jigsaw missing at this stage.

"There are quite a few slots that are open," Dhoni admitted candidly on the eve of the Kochi ODI. "A fast bowling slot, you can say -- one or two depending on injuries, one batsman's slot. We don't have a world-class all-rounder, which means that place is also up for grabs. Also, one more big-hitting batsman who can fit down the order."

While this is by no means meant to be an alarming statement, it does put players on notice. India's typical composition has been to play four specialist bowlers and seven batsmen (including the wicketkeeper captain Dhoni) and work with part-time bowlers to fill in the role of the fifth bowler. However, in the recent past, Ravindra Jadeja has been groomed as an all-rounder, an experiment that has paid rich dividends at the domestic level and in the Indian Premier League, but one that is yet to bear fruit at the international level.

While this could mean that someone like R Ashwin could get a look in, time is short and the safe option could be to play an extra batsman and rely more on part-timers. This, in turn, could open up a slot of the likes of the hard-hitting Saurabh Tiwary, who is hoping to get some game time in this series.

At the same time, Dhoni made it clear that the core of the team — India's traditional strength is its batting - wore a settled look. "The top five-six batsmen and totally, eight to nine are almost sure, if injuries don't bother them," said Dhoni. "There are quite a few spots available depending upon the performance of the individual. It is also about what criteria the team wants to go with, whether they want an all-rounder or stick with a batsman to work away with a part-timer. The slots will be open for quite some time now."

It's now down to India's youngsters to try and make use of this situation and nail down a place in the team.