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April 6, 1999


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15 against the world

Sanjay Manjrekar

So now we know who the fifteen are. The men who have been entrusted with the job of bringing the World Cup back to India.

The 15 men selected better have strong, sturdy shoulders, for they are going to carry the heaviest burden ever carried by an Indian team. The hope and the hype that has been created around this World Cup, much of it commercially, is by far the biggest ever. Even the non-cricket follower is getting sucked into the whole frenzy. And consequently, expectations grow to unimaginable proportions, and its weight tells on the players.

The selector's job, like a few other jobs in cricket, is a thankless one. Like the wicket keepers and the umpires, the selectors seldom get applause. However, this time the selection committee needs to be congratulated for a job well done. Although the selection was more or less predictable, the selectors have shown honesty and a sense of purpose by putting together one of the best selections I have seen in recent times.

The selectors have done their job and done it well -- now it is up to the players and the coach to make the most of their opportunity. Let me now share my thoughts with you on the selected bunch of fifteen who will be the centre of focus in the next few weeks.

Mohammad Azharuddin

 Mohammad Azharuddin
The right choice to lead the team. But I am sure many will strongly differ. He is at a stage of his career where there are extreme reactions to his selection. We all know that he is not the best captain the world has seen -- or for that matter, that India has seen. Still, he is definitely the appropriate man at this very critical time for Indian cricket. I can't help feeling though that if Azhar had to retain his captaincy after the World Cup, nothing less than winning it will do it for him. I would say it is a do or die tour for the longest-serving India captain.

Sachin Tendulkar

 Sachin Tendulkar
Number one player for India as well as the number one player in the World Cup. Obviously, a lot of attention will centre around the man. I am glad that Lara has risen from a brief oblivion and will now share the spotlight. Sachin wouldn't mind that. His batting position in England will definitely be a point of debate during the early stages of the tournament. I, for one, feel he should open in all the preparation matches and the team management should then decide which is the right position for him.

Saurav Ganguly

Found his feet in international cricket in the very country that is hosting the World Cup. Superb player, he has the ability to excel in all conditions. Just needs to tune himself mentally and win more matches for India on his own.

Sadagopan Ramesh

Well-merited selection. It will be very interesting to see how he copes with the conditions in England. Has shots in his repertoire that will no doubt get him into trouble in seaming conditions. It's very vital for him to use the three-weeks preparation period prior to the tournament to decide on his shot selection. If he can do that, it's always good to have a batsman with a Test match temperament in a one-day team that is touring England.

Rahul Dravid

Never considered a key player in one day games in the sub-continent. But in England, he will all of a sudden find a lot of responsibility coming his way.

Ajay Jadeja

His tactical expertise will be valuable for the Indian team. But no doubt the team will need his batting ability more. Can he be as valuable to India's one-day side in England is the question. Important tour for the Indian vice captain to get some more credibility.

Nayan Mongia

Though he wasn't an ideal one-day selection, he has been fortunate that there aren't many competent alternatives to push him hard enough. So, still the number one choice as wicket-keeper for tests as well as one-dayers.

Robin Singh

Bits and pieces player, and that is what his performance will be. Doesn't quite have the ability to make a huge impression in England. Although his presence on the field tends to make quite an impression on the colleagues around him.

Anil Kumble

Conditions totally unsuitable for the Indian leg-spinner. Remember, he had a terrible tour of England in the first half of 1996, and the conditions won't be much different this time either. Can see him being an economical bowler for India.

Javagal Srinath

 Javagal Srinath
India's best bowler in the World Cup squad. He will be the strike bowler. Has the talent, he just needs to get that message across to the opposition. The Indian team will depend heavily on its fastest bowler, who in turn should try not to disappoint.

Venkatesh Prasad

Just what he was looking for, a tour to a country that will give him helpful conditions. Has lost a bit of pace since he was last in England, but will remain India's most dependable bowler.

Ajit Agarkar

 Ajit Agarkar
Whatever he does will no doubt be exciting. His strength as a cricketer will be tested to the fullest. Although his style is not ideally suited to English conditions, he will always be in the game and while at it, he will always be making a difference.

Nikhil Chopra

Good choice by the selectors. Best one-day off-spinner in the country. His type of bowling will find favour on English tracks. He'll have to learn quickly to use the wind. Not a big finger spinner, so the cold shouldn't bother him much.

Debashish Mohanty

Surprise selection for many. But I can see the thinking behind his inclusion. From the options they had, the selectors have gone for the most experienced one, and probably the more reliable one.

Amay Khurasia

Became an automatic selection after that quick half century on debut. I for one feel that he should have been selected in the Indian team a year ago. One year's experience at the international level would have helped his cause. A dangerous one-day batsman, but expecting him to be consistently dangerous in England would be expecting too much.

Picks and pans

We've heard from Sanjay, now let's hear from you. Which in your estimation are the stars to watch for, in this Indian squad? And why? Who could be the flops? Enter your name, email, and your thoughts, hit the 'Send' button, let's hear from you. Do look for your comments, and that of others, in the Forum section on the World Cup site, within 24 hours of posting.


Sanjay Manjrekar

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