Vizagites await another Dhoni blitzkrieg

EUPHORIC MOMENTS (Right) Mahendra Singh Dhoni ecstatic after his scintillating 148 against Pakistan in 2005 at the ACA-VDCA Stadium and a section of the enthusiastic crowd cheering India

EUPHORIC MOMENTS (Right) Mahendra Singh Dhoni ecstatic after his scintillating 148 against Pakistan in 2005 at the ACA-VDCA Stadium and a section of the enthusiastic crowd cheering India   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: K.R. DEEPAK

Cricket fans hope for another run feast by Team India on Saturday, writes SUMIT BHATTACHARJEE

About two years ago the newly constructed ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium at Pothinamalayyapalem was set on fire by a rookie wicketkeeper-batsman from Ranchi. The 26-year old celebrated his promotion to the no.3 spot with a 148 blitzkrieg that contained 15 fours and four sixes. You got it right, the inference is about Mahendra Singh Dhoni who displayed a new generation of audacious strokeplay in tandem with the prince of Najafgarh, Virendra Sehwag. Dhoni's 148 off 123 balls and Sehwag's 74 off 40 saw India post its highest total of 356 runs against archrivals Pakistan. The taste of victory over Pakistan not only lingers with the Vizagites but what is still fresh is Dhoni's strokeplay that ripped open the famed Pakistani pace attack. "The huge six off Naved Rana over mid-wicket is still encrypted in my mind. And I hope that he would repeat the performance once again on Saturday," opined 13-year old Sekhar.Vizagites are hoping for a repeat performance by Team India with special focus on Dhoni, Sehwag, Saurav, Sachin, Dravid and Zaheer. Many are also keen to see dada in action."And they wouldn't be disappointed. The pitch has lot of runs in store. One should be ready for a high scoring match. Both Sri Lanka and India have depth in batting and people can expect some big hitting from the likes of Jayasuriya, Saurav or Dhoni," says M.N. Ravi Kumar, former Ranji captain of Andhra. Moreover, the match being a series decider makes things more interesting. Pakistan or Sri Lanka, Vizagites are game for anything as long as it's cricket with India. Apart from last minute rush for tickets, children were seen flocking the stores over the last couple of days for binoculars to catch their heroes closer. With the emphatic win over Lanka in the last match at Goa, the morale is high among the people and with that goes the expectations. Cricket is the talk of the town and with the World Cup in the West Indies a few weeks away the game is high on the agenda. It is being discussed everywhere and in some quarters it has overshadowed the GVMC elections. Apart from strategies what is being deliberated over steaming cups of chai or coffee is the playing XI for the world cup. What is the city's choice of XI?"The selectors have done a great job in picking the 15-member squad for the World Cup. It is a combination of youth and experience. What is needed now is to field the best out of the 15. I would prefer Saurav and Sehwag to open the innings. Robin is good but he is new to the wickets in West Indies. Let's not experiment in the world cup. Saurav is in great form and if Sehwag clicks then nothing like it. He is one batsman who can take the fight to the opposition camp, irrespective of how sharp the bowling attack is. On his day he is unstoppable and is a match winner," says Ravi Kumar. The former Andhra captain is of the opinion that the side should be packed with all-rounders like it was in the 1983 Prudential Cup, keeping seven or eight players constant in the side. He feels that Dinesh, Irfan and Munaf should be part of the playing eleven. Prof. A. Prasanna Kumar who has been a cricket commentator and keen follower of the game for the past 50 years goes a step further and adds, "I would prefer Dinesh over Yuvraj. The Tamil Nadu lad has tremendous potential and he is the man in form. And most importantly his fielding capabilities are as good as Yuvraj's. The southpaw, Yuvraj, is extremely talented but his form is doubtful and we are not sure about his injury status."He puts all his money behind Anil Kumble and feels that the aging leggie could make the difference. "I know age is showing on him but you cannot beat his experience and match winning ability. In West Indies he would be a different proposition."Prof. Prasanna Kumar is unhappy with the exclusion of Romesh Pawar. He is of the opinion that Sehwag and Irfan had sneaked into the team while Pawar and Kaif has been snuffed out. He also suggests that Sehwag should open with Saurav instead of Robin. "Another important factor is our tail. We have the longest tail in contemporary cricket. To strike that `difference' in the world cup everybody should contribute to the score, leaving aside Munaf or Sreesanth. The rest is capable of scoring some runs and they need to apply themselves depending on the situation. The tail must forget the aerial route and concentrate on batting for the full 50 overs." The former ACA president and manager of the Indian Team to West Indies, D.V. Subba Rao, suggests that V.V.S. Laxman should have been in the team instead of Yuvraj. "Yuvraj's fitness is a doubt and when our problem lies in the middle order, why not strengthen it with somebody like Laxman. Now, since the team is decided I would vote for Dinesh over Yuvraj and open the innings with Sachin or Sehwag with Saurav."He feels that Kumble should be part of the playing eleven over Harbhajan and Irfan should reassess himself and get over the identity crisis before the Caribbean tour. Vizag 'selection' for World CupSaurav Ganguly,
Virendra Sehwag,
Sachin Tendulkar,
Rahul Dravid,
Dinesh Karthik or
Yuvraj Singh,
Mahendra Singh Dhoni,
Irfan Pathan,
Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh,
Zaheer Khan,
Munaf Patel,
Ajit Agarkar or Sreesanth,
Robin Uthapa (12th man)

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