December 29, 2010

I have been keenly following Indian cricket for a while and I can safely say that they are playing too much cricket. According to me the timing of the South African tour, starting December 16, is not good at all.

I will beg to differ with Imran Khan’s views on India’s upcoming tour of South Africa. Imran has said a tough tour of South Africa ahead of the World Cup will stand India in good stead. Not really.

Making a balanced cricketing calendar has been a problem with the Indian Board in the last five-six years. There is a serious overkill. India play too many matches round the year and no wonder their fast bowlers are getting injured far too often.

No matter how good the players’ form is, the South Africa series will end just a couple of weeks before the World Cup and that is little too close. Although, they may not be tired physically because it’s their job to play cricket but it will certainly take a mental toll on Indian cricketers. Any series that involved three Tests, one T20 and five ODIs is quite tiring and there is a great risk of injuries.

As far as India’s hunt for the fourth and fifth bowler goes, I would like to back Ishant Sharma for the job. I will always want to invest on a player who is going to be around for a long while. And according to me, Ishant is only 22 and very eager to perform.

Ishant has had a lean patch but is back in contention. The Indian think-tank should back him to the hilt. He is tall, has a high-arm action and is hard-working and hence should be given the adequate support. Given the conditions in South Africa, he should thrive there.

I have already named India as the favourites for the upcoming World Cup in my previous columns. I want to reiterate the fact that Dhoni’s boys will certainly be rated very highly on present form and in favourable conditions as well.

India have gelled together as a unit and are looking to be the most confident team. In the last three World Cups, Australia were the clear favourites and it is after a long time that they are not being counted in the title race.

The 5-0 whitewash against New Zealand has once again proved India’s might in world cricket. The win does not say that New Zealand were a weak side but the result clearly indicates India have a strong bench strength.

Even after resting the seniors before the South African tour, India easily outplayed the Kiwis in the Tests and ODIs. The Black Caps are no pushovers in the limited-over format and to beat them convincingly, speaks volumes about India’s young guns. Players like Virat Kohli and Yusuf Pathan rose to the challenge at crucial junctures to help Gautam Gambhir lead an inspired show in the ODIs.

The series has certainly helped Team India get their confidence shoot up by miles. The youngsters would have gained tremendous self-belief of performing well against tough sides even in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan.

Moving on to Pakistan cricket and here I totally agree with Imran’s views on Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif. The duo’s absence in the World Cup squad will certainly hit Pakistan badly. They are talented bowlers and can wreck any batting lineup on their day.

The ICC’s decision on their future in the spot-fixing saga will be eagerly awaited in Pakistan. I think the ICC should decide their fate soon in order to help Pakistan get their squad ready well in advance.

Well, Pakistan may not be favourites but will be a dangerous team nonetheless. Nobody knows how Pakistan are going to perform on their day. So it’s one of those teams which is fearless and that makes Pakistan dangerous.


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