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Fit the right pieces to complete the jigsaw

The Indian team is licking its wounds after getting a hiding by the Kiwis but the country is riding a wave of hope, expecting an avalanche at the World Cup. Frankly, India can go the distance so long as they get their fine-tuning right.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2003 02:21 IST

The Indian team is licking its wounds after getting a hiding by the Kiwis but the country is riding a wave of hope, expecting an avalanche at the World Cup. Frankly, India can go the distance so long as they get their fine-tuning right.

India are in a tough pool, where any three of the five best sides can go through to the Super Sixes.

The fact that the quality of pitches will be better than in New Zealand can only be good news for India, whose strength is batting. The batsmen can put up competitive totals or, if needed, can chase challenging scores as they did in the NatWest Trophy final or in the ICC Champions Trophy.

Getting the team composition right is like completing a jigsaw puzzle. It is critical that the team fits the right people in their rightful slots, getting them back to where they belong. India are formidable, loaded with potential, but greatness lies not in being strong but in the right use of strength.

Rahul Dravid springs to mind. Entrusted with the job of keeping wickets, he is pivotal in restoring the balance and giving the Indian team the elusive winning combination. It is one marriage of convenience that is working wonders. He needs to be applauded for accepting the unfamiliar burden in the interest of the side, though his wicket-keeping is like riding a bicycle without a saddle --- uncomfortable.

Just think of the Indian team with Dravid as a specialist batsman and Parthiv Patel behind the stumps. The balance goes haywire, with the side having to drop Mohammed Kaif or a specialist bowler. A bowler is a necessity, considering the paucity of allround talent of quality - Ajit Agarkar is fickle as a weathercock, Sanjay Bangar is primarily a batting allrounder. Dravid's wicket-keeping gives the team extra options, though the investment in his dual role is like riding a tiger - you can't dismount.

Sachin Tendulkar needs to be back at the top of the order. I shall deal will this issue at greater length in one of my subsequent pieces, but let me make it clear now that the idea of having Tendulkar at No. 4 has been at best a defensive move and a fiasco. The team management is digging a grave to bury his true potential of dominating and dictating terms to the opposition at the start of the innings.

Sachin's current role clips his wings and makes a great player look ordinary. Dravid is ideally suited for this slot, which calls for a batsman to rotate the strike and ensure that India have the wickets in hand in the end. To shield the world's best batsman with 33 one-day centuries is a load of rubbish.

The fate of most one-day games in the modern era is decided in the first 15 overs. The first blow is half the battle. The prudent step would be to have Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag at the top of the tree to give the team the required impetus.

India have the perfect balance, with plenty of experience to channelise the exuberance of youth. The enthusiasm of Kaif and Yuvraj Singh is the propelling force necessary to climb the ladder of success. To me, fielding will make the decisive difference.

It will be appropriate to say that Indian team is like a Mercedes whose spark plugs need some cleaning before it starts purring again. For Ganguly and his men, the ideal mantra is: It is time to make hay while things are going haywire. (TCM)

(Navjot Singh Sidhu will be writing exclusively for HT during the World Cup)

First Published: Jan 29, 2003 02:01 IST