6:26 pm - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Yuvraj or no Yuvraj, it’s time to back Team India’s World Cup defence

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India’s World Cup squad announcement turned into ‘Campaign Yuvraj’ 48 hours before the selection meeting, with emotional fans shouting their lungs off for his return and the media hinging that unlikely comeback on Ravindra Jadeja’s injury and Yuvi’s hat-trick of first-class centuries for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. But Sandeep Patil led the ‘move on’ chorus with his fellow selectors and closed any leftover entry point for the left-hander’s surprise return – at least for now.

Why ‘for now’? That’s because Jadeja’s selection is conditional. Belonging to same ilk as Yuvraj, though nowhere near as good as Yuvi in batting, Jadeja is nursing a shoulder injury and has been selected anticipating full recovery before the World Cup begins on February 14. But if he doesn’t, BCCI will have the option of roping in Yuvraj, though the selectors’ mood doesn’t suggest so.

Had that been the case, Yuvraj would have been included in the 17-man squad for the Carlton Mid Tri-Series in Australia to help him acclimatise should he be needed. Instead, Mohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni were added to World Cup 15 for the tri-series, at the end of which the medium-pace duo will fly back home.

Baffling part in the tri-series squad is that if Jadeja is unfit, then why has he been put on the plane before the World Cup. If Yuvraj’s name was discussed, then the tri-series was the ideal opportunity to test and keep the 32-year-old in shape for emergency World Cup replacement in the eleventh hour. But perhaps selectors didn’t want that because Yuvraj’s good show would have led to a huge outcry over leaving him out for the World Cup.

What surprised a few, though, was selection of two left-arm bowling allrounders – Jadeja and Axar Patel. That’s where the selectors made a point that they don’t want to move in reverse gear and would rather throw a talented youngster into the line of fire.

At least 11 of the 15 players picked themselves in the MS Dhoni-led touring party, and the BCCI secretary said that many names were deliberated upon, from within and outside the pool of 30 World Cup probables, for the remaining places, a couple of which went to Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny.

Rayudu has worked hard to earn his badge and it would be fair to add that he has bagged his ticket on merit. However, there’s another school of thought that believes the in-form Murali Vijay should have been picked ahead of Rayudu. But with Rahane there to double up as opener in place Shikhar Dhawan or Rohit Sharma, picking another opener made little sense despite Vijay’s superb form during the Test series in Australia.

Reportedly, Dhoni pressed for his CSK team-mates Vijay and Mohit, but the selectors turned that suggestion down.

A touch-and-go choice would have been between Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav, where the latter got the nod leaving the Jharkhand pacer heartbroken. But Aaron’s brittle fitness might have gone against his selection for the high-profile event.

And the Binny family will have its second world cupper in the form of Stuart – probably the only available seam-up option that can also contribute 30-40 runs with the willow. That is most likely why his name was ticked despite his up and down limited-overs graph.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar is happy with the allrounders selected, saying they can make the difference.

“The Indian batsmen are capable of putting a lot of runs on the board. Batting has been India’s strength. But the fact that we won the last World Cup and the Champions Trophy on the all-round performance, so the Jadejas, Binnys, Ashwins could play a role in India defending the title,” Gavaskar told a news channel.

“India’s batting looks good and as far as bowling is concerned, if they can bowl well on the surfaces in Australia, they have a good chance.”

Many had okayed the name of Robin Uthappa in their team, providing option as a back-up opener, wicketkeeper and middle-order batsman, but he was unfortunate to lose that spot to Rayudu, who, in all fairness, earned a deserving place for the big-ticket event.

“I believe every person gets what they deserve at the right time,” Uthappa told ESPNCricinfo. “For me, I have accepted it, staying very much in the present. Here I am playing Ranji Trophy and I will continue playing Ranji Trophy. I love the game, that is why we play the game. Yes, definitely I am a tad disappointed but I believe that good things will come at the right time, at the right place, under the right circumstances.”

“Yes, I am very happy for Stuart,” he added. “We both were pretty tensed yesterday and today. I am very happy for him and hopefully he does great. It is an honour to play in the World Cup. It is a fantastic opportunity. I just wished him and asked him to make the most of it,” the Karnataka batsman said.

But the time for analysis is now over. We have the 15 players country’s cricket board has selected, and now it’s time to back them in keeping the cup at BCCI headquarters.

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