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Time for the youngsters to prove their worth

It's coming from all directions. An unstable opening pair; a disjointed middle order and a lower-half which is held together by an unconvincing No. 7 bat. You have spinners who can't get the wickets needed in the middle overs and a new-ball line-up which has a new drop-out every morning, writes Ravi Shastri.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2010 00:03 IST
Ravi Shastri

It's coming from all directions. An unstable opening pair; a disjointed middle order and a lower-half which is held together by an unconvincing No. 7 bat. You have spinners who can't get the wickets needed in the middle overs and a new-ball line-up which has a new drop-out every morning.

It's Ashish Nehra, I believe, who's a casualty this time. As if this was not enough, the practice wickets have been a let down; the middle turf has a mind of its' own and even the improved light-towers are still not up to scratch.

And to top it, your captain isn't winning the toss.

Then you read "whispers" in newspapers how players are desperate for a break. The captain and coach can be excused for thinking they're in a war zone.

The biggest dilemma facing the team isn't how they perform against Sri Lanka on Monday. It is whether they have a credible line-up for the 2011 World Cup.

They have only seven one-dayers at home to sort out the mess. A few are certain starters: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.

That's just about half the unit: A couple of middle-order batsmen, an impact player at No. 7 and nearly the entire bowling line-up isn't cast in the mould yet.

I am afraid the selectors can't allow any prolonged slump in form. It immediately puts the likes of Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Ravindra Jadeja on alert.

Fitness too needs to be put through a microscope. Performance has to be linked with fitness.

Just one of the two wouldn't do. There are a couple of South African odyssey's in the run-up to the 2011 World Cup. One is the Champions League, which begins once this triangular is over.

The other is the full tour in December which finishes just a couple of weeks before the World Cup.

While Champions League could stretch the likes of Tendulkar, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Dhoni, Raina and Virat Kohli, it could also be a platform for a few exciting youngsters such as Sourabh Tiwary and Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu.

So, on Monday, one would look for intensity and hunger in the team.

How the boys are throwing themselves around in the field; how bowlers are adhering to discipline without losing out on their aggression and how batsmen are intent to stick around at the crease. It's time they prove they belong.