The men’s squad for the Cricket World Cup seems like a good and balanced one. But India isn’t a favourite
June 25, 1983 is the moment cricket in India changed forever. One can even argue it is the day that India changed forever and much more than the economic reforms ushered in the early-1990s. That was the victory of Kapil Dev’s men at Lord’s, in the heart of the capital of India’s colonial oppressors just 35 years after independence, a win that nobody expected in a sport still fighting for top billing in India. Thirty-six years later, can a team of men, none of whom were born before that fateful summer’s day in Lord’s, win India another trophy at the same cricket ground? On the face of it, the squad that was announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) did not generate the controversy that team announcements usually have. Partially that was because of the ongoing elections and the associated controversy that our politicians manage with their mouths, but also the overwhelming sense that this is possibly the best squad of players that India has at its disposal right now. While many expressed disappointment on social media that Delhi lad Rishabh Pant did not make the final cut, the selection of Dinesh Karthik to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s understudy is a sensible one, although nobody expects the master strategist Dhoni to not play.
That said, this appears to be the most open World Cup in years. While India has selected a strong squad, it is not among the favourites. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has England on the top of the One-Day International rankings just above India and it has a very strong team, with several of its players performing well in the Indian Premier League (IPL). In fact, the IPL has also given Australia a taste of what its team was missing as Steve Smith and David Warner make their comebacks and have been selected. After a few years of turmoil, Australia seems to have gotten its mojo back. The other subcontinental teams are in the fray and every cricket fan is happy to see the return of a competitive West Indian team, but can its power hitters, specialised in modern-day T20 cricket, manage to adapt? And there is that India-Pakistan clash at the Old Trafford ground on June 16, which in the aftermath of the recent ‘events’ on the Line of Control, should make for must-watch TV across the world, even for those who don’t follow cricket. Of course, that depends on both sides going ahead with the match, which is still a doubt. All said and done, India has a strong squad for the World Cup and while world cricket is more competitive than ever, our boys might just repeat the fantastic achievement of Kapil Dev and his men and carve their own niche in history.