The start of the World Cup less than two months away, India’s team finds itself in the unenviable position of not knowing its most competent 11, the composition of its middle order or the fitness level of key personnel returning from injuries. There is little excitement that marks the prelude to a World Cup. Of course, euphoria could kick in, the team could ride to glory in Ahmedabad on November 19.
For now, however, the problems that afflict Team India are visible in plain sight. The middle-order is shallow and unstable. It’s unfathomable how a nation that brags about the depth of its sporting talent, has not discovered or groomed a reliable No 4 since the loss of form, a decade ago, of Yuvraj Singh. Those who have been identified as potential heirs have contrived to get injured. Like KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer.
Call it a curse, or mismanagement of workload, or shoddy rehab, or myopic planning. Not just Rahul and Iyer, the most important block in the World Cup puzzle, fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, too is returning from an injury-induced layoff. Can he immediately hit the straps and clock 90 miles per hour? Can Rahul and Iyer reclaim their groove? Can Rahul shoulder the responsibility of keeping and batting in the middle order? Unlike Rahul Dravid who juggled both in South Africa 2003, he has to keep on subcontinental tracks, where the ball spins more and keeps low.
There is little clarity, either, on the group of spinners — Ravindra Jadeja is the only certainty. The powers that be are still searching for the perfect eleven. Whether or not these players will be able to make up for lost time and pass the World Cup test in flying colours, is a difficult question. The journey could be thrilling, or heartbreaking.