You may want to, for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of Ashish Nehra and Sreesanth. In the 18 months before the World Cup began, Nehra was India’s main strike bowler and rarely missed a game due to injury or otherwise. Sreesanth, on the other hand, was the last-minute replacement for the injured Praveen Kumar. While he wasn’t in India’s scheme of things for a while, he did impress in the warm-up games. Strangely though, Nehra has so far bowled 13.4 overs in the World Cup and has unfortunately been made a veritable pariah by the 1.2 billion Indians. Sreesanth has featured in only one game, bowled five rather insipid overs and seems to have done his bit in the Cup.
The game against the West Indies at Chennai was the ideal and perhaps the last opportunity to give either of them another hit in the middle before the all-important knockouts. You may argue that winning the game convincingly was mandatory to build the much-needed momentum, but does that mean we would have lost the game had we played Nehra or Sreesanth? I refute any such whims.
REST FOR KEY PLAYERS
Let’s look around and see what other teams are doing at this stage. Once the berth for the quarterfinals is secured, teams generally try out options to have a bigger pool of players to choose from. South Africa, for instance, rested Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and AB de Villiers against Bangladesh and yet thrashed the opposition. Even the West Indies rested Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach against India. Ironically, we don’t seem to have realised the importance of giving key players a decent run before the knockouts.
OVER-RELIANCE ON ZAK
What about our over-reliance on Zaheer Khan to provide those crucial breakthroughs every time we desperately need them? Shouldn’t we at least try and find another man to share the burden? Nehra was Dhoni’s go-to man in Zaheer’s absence but a few bad outings, unfortunately, have changed everyone’s opinion. Ideally, one would want to play the strongest team, yet, winning the World Cup may not always be about putting the best XI on the park each time, at least not against minnows or weaker opposition.
We had the option of giving Sreesanth another go against either Ireland or the Netherlands but we chose to look the other way. While I understand the sentiment of safety first, one may have to look beyond them to do what is best for the team.