Piyush Chawla picked as third specialist spinner ahead of an additional batsman
The selectors need to be complimented for picking a balanced 15-member squad for the ICC ODI World Cup. The Indian team, picked here on Monday afternoon, is not short of depth.
Crucially, the wise men have selected leg-spinner Piyush Chawla as the third specialist spinner in the squad ahead of an additional batsman in Rohit Sharma. This is an attacking move.
A leg-spinner, always the more aggressive option, does add another dimension to the Indian attack. Chawla might not have figured in an ODI for India since 2008 but is an improved bowler.
He is in the mould of former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed who employed his googly to telling effect in the ODIs.
There is this theory, not without logic, that the delivery spinning into the right-hander is more effective in limited-over cricket than the one turning away.
Piyush has worked hard at improving the ball that spins away from the right-hander. A wicket-taking bowler with flight, dip and a useful top-spinner, Chawla could prove an inspired selection.
The chairman of the selection panel, K. Srikkanth, said, “We have selected the team, keeping in mind the opposition, the conditions and our strategy.”
It's clear that Chawla fits into the selectors' scheme of things. He could be particularly effective against three big teams in India's group — South Africa, England and the West Indies. The three sides have stumbled against leg-spin in the past.
Under the circumstances, picking a third specialist spinner makes sense.
It is also evident that the selectors have received favourable reports about the fitness of three prominent players — Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir — who are in the injured list.
Not backed by runs
Rohit did not help his cause either with his lack of consistency. His talent has not always been backed by runs for India. In any case, roping in an extra batsman would have been seen as a largely defensive move.
The side has Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan (batting all-rounder) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (batsman-wicketkeeper) as its frontline batsmen. Kohli will vie with Pathan for a place in the eleven.
Harbhajan Singh and R. Ashwin are the off-spinners in the side. Although, Harbhajan and Ashwin belong to the same tribe, their methods are different.
Harbhajan spins the ball more while Ashwin depends on his bounce. Harbhajan relies on his doosra for variation, Ashwin strikes with his carom ball and the leg-cutter.
Picking three specialist spinners for a competition in India reveals the selectors have gone by the horses for courses theory. They have also included four pacemen in the squad.
While the selection of spearhead Zaheer Khan, the in-form Munaf Patel and the side's best ‘death' bowler Ashish Nehra are on predictable lines, the selectors have chosen Praveen Kumar over S. Sreesanth.
Both are swing bowlers but Praveen's greater consistency and clever changes in pace could have been the clinching factors in his favour.
Sreesanth's out-swing has been potent in Test cricket. However, this delivery has its limitations in the one-day arena, particularly in the sub-continent. But for the early overs, the cordon is non-existent and the edges fly to the fence.
Praveen can send down the away going delivery too and has better control over his in-swing.
He is a crafty customer with the white ball and can also strike some big blows down the order with the willow.
Praveen is grappling with an elbow strain but the selectors believe he will be able to recover in time.
It can be argued that Sreesanth has more thrust and is better suited to getting the ball to reverse in the end overs but Dhoni's greater faith in Praveen could have tilted the issue.
The absence of a genuine multi-dimensional player, though, makes India a lesser side. But is there any true all-rounder in the country?
Srikkanth believes this is the best squad under the circumstances.
“Two of the selectors, Yashpal Sharma and I have played in the World Cup and we have taken all factors into account.
“Playing at home has its advantages but there will be enormous pressure on the side since the expectations will be very high,” added the selection committee chief.