India’s World Cup reserves shine, stay above competition

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

The world was going gaga over Roger Federer’s straight-set shut down of home favourite Andy Murray in the Wimbledon semifinal – inarguably a high quality sporting contest. But it was hard to resist the temptation of tracking the Indian cricket team’s battle against Zimbabwe in the first one-day international at the Harare Sports Club on a fantastic Friday evening.

Coming in the wake of a series loss in Bangladesh and a number of players’ decision to seek rest during the short tour of Zimbabwe, it made sense to keep an eye on how some players on the fringes of the full Indian team would respond to the challenges offered by the situation and the Zimbabwe team.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Axar Patel, who spent the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 warming the reserves benches, were among those who grabbed the opportunity to justify the selectors’ line of thinking. Ajinkya Rahane and Harbhajan Singh did enough to reinforce their own claims while the others were left to introspect their game.

As they rustled up a 160-run partnership for the sixth wicket to give the Indians a reasonable total to defend on a sluggish track, Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny combined industry, maturity and adventurism in right proportions. India was able to go past the 250-mark after having been a miserable 87 for five.

As Stuart Binny showcased his batsmanship, not a few old-timers would have been tempted to recall the 1983 Prudential Cup match between these nations at Tunbridge Wells when his father, Roger Binny, gave skipper Kapil Dev the support he needed after five specialist batsmen fell for single-digit scores.

On a Harare Sports Club track that had a bit of moisture and offered the new ball bowlers extra bounce and some movement, it was imperative that the Indian batsmen get their heads down and dig their heels in. Rahane got off to a start but did not make it count while the other specialists frittered their wickets away with poor judgement.

Of course, it is too early to question the temperament of the batsmen aspiring to break into the Indian ODI squad but it will not be unfair to suggest that Murali Vijay, Manoj Tiwary, Robin Uthappa and Kedar Jadhav wasted the first opportunity in Zimbabwe. Each of this quartet would have been eager to impress and stay in the frame when the selectors meet again.

There was one another aspect that came through tellingly – Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s ability as a death overs bowler. Mahendra Singh Dhoni preferred to not employ him in the final overs and bowling his full quota of overs only once in every four innings. But against Elton Chigumbura and others, Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed that he could attack the blockhole with regularity.

If Rahane and his team can win the three-match series on Sunday, the tour selectors may be tempted to give explosive batsman Manish Pandey and new ball bowler Sandeep Sharma a look in. But it does look like as if they will have to wear the substitutes’ jackets along with Mohit Sharma during the second ODI as well.

Talking of selection, it was not a great idea to ignore specialist wicket-keepers for the tour. Also, the decision to not pick a replacement leg-spinner for Karn Sharma who pulled out with injury was a poor one. Not only was Amit Mishra or Yuzvendra Chahal denied a chance but also Rahane found himself desperate for an additional slow bowling option during the defence.

About Rajaraman 453 Articles
Born on March 10, 1961 in Hyderabad, I wanted to be an electronics engineer but my focus on cricket and basketball at school and junior college meant that I missed qualifying from the entrance examination. I led the School and Junior College basketball teams. I then decided he would be sports a journalist like my father, Mr N Ganesan. While I graduated in commerce from the Badruka College of Arts and Commerce, I also spent more time in sports, representing Andhra Pradesh in the National Basketball Championship in 1980 and Osmania University in 1981-82. I joined the 1981-82 batch of Osmania Univeristy's Bachelor in Communication and Journalism. I missed the gold medal by 0.6 per cent and was pursuing the Masters' degree when The Hindu offered me a job as Sub-Editor in Madras. I took up The Hindu assignment on March 17, 1983. Though my job entailed editing functions only, I got to cover the annual Sholavaram motor racing grands prix in 1985 and 1986 and the Himalayan Rally in 1985 when my photographs also found expression in The Sportstar. I left The Hindu in November 1986 to join Press Trust of India as Sports Reporter in Hyderabad. I was called to New Delhi to report on the World Table Tennis Championship in March 1987. I covered a variety of events, including the SAF Games in Calcutta in 1987 and Islamabad in 1989. I ventured to Delhi in July 1992 when I joined The Pioneer as a Senior Reporter/Sub-Editor (Sports). My cricket writing skills came to the fore when I was deputed to write on India's tour of Sri Lanka in July-August 1993. I was rewarded with a promotion as Deputy Sports Editor in 1995. The departure of the Sports Editor in January 1996 saw me hold charge. A good performance during the 1996 World Cup cricket and the Olympic Games in Atlanta - when The Pioneer brought out a four-page supplement every day saw me being confirmed as Sports Editor in August 1996. The Hindustan Times, Delhi's largest newspaper, appointed me as Associate Editor (Sports) in January 1997. I conceived and launched a weekly colour supplement, Sport during the World Cup football finals in 1998. I covered the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok and the 1999 World Cup cricket in England. I left the Hindustan Times on February 23, 2000 to take up position as Editor, www.cricketnext.com on February 26 and can claim with pride that I played no mean role in building a good site that is rated among the best cricket news sites. Besides, a number of TV channels – NDTV, Star News, Doordarshan, CNBC, Zee News – and radio stations like BBC, SABC and ABC have invite me to in-studio discussions on cricket. In 2001, I authored a book, Match-fixing: The Enemy Within (Har Anand Publications). I joined www.espnstar.com as Senior Editor in June 2001 and worked for two years, helping it transform from a corporate website to a respected sports site and playing a role in driving the hugely popular online fantasy cricket game, Super Selector. I left the website to pursue life as a freelance writer and consultant, editing the Afro-Asian Games Observer in Hyderabad in October-November 2003 and helping the Board of Control for Cricket in India's Communication Committee. I joined the respected weekly magazine Outlook as Senior Special Correspondent in April 2005 and worked there till September 2007, with a story highlighting Sunil Gavaskar's minimal contribution to Indian cricket after his retirement being one of the best in my career. For a year, till Sept 30, 2008, I was Sports Editor, Samay, Sahara India's National news channel. I live in New Delhi with my wife Sudha and daughter Priya and after a short stint with www.iplt20.com and www.t20.com, I am now consultant with the Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi (28° 40' 0 N, 77° 13' 0 E) lending my shoulder to the wheel that will make India a hugely popular sports destination.