If you are an ardent Indian fan you have every reason to be upset with some of the performances in the ongoing IPL. Most of Indias T-20 stars have had a below par tournament and with the T-20 world cup just months away, these are ominous signs for the team. Except the openers who have played to potential and have been the stars of the tournament so far, most of the other members of the Indian T-20 team have failed.
Suresh Raina, our best T-20 player in recent times, is languishing at the bottom half of the run scorers list, even below Rahul Dravid and Mandeep Singh. Virat Kohli too isnt in the best of form in this tournament. Rohit Sharma has been inconsistent at best and Yusuf Pathan has been the biggest flop of the tournament so far. The Indian captain too looks a shadow of his former self and hasnt fired in most of the games.
In bowling the picture isnt much better. Ravi Ashwin seems to have lost his wicket taking sting and Pragyan Ojha was literally mauled by Chris Gayle at the Wankhede. Zaheer Khan is going at over seven and a half and Vinay Kumar had to be benched for a couple of games. Ashok Dinda, despite starting the tournament brilliantly, was sidelined because of a side strain and Umesh Yadav has been erratic on occasions. India cant just win a world cup banking on Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, the two men who have played above potential in the IPL.
In contrast, the Australians and the West Indians look much better prepared. Shane Watson has launched himself on the tournament and David Warner too has shown glimpses of terrific form. Shaun Tait has been brilliant for the Rajasthan Royals in the few opportunities he has got and Steve Smith has been the star for the Warriors in an otherwise dismal campaign. David Hussey continues to do what he does best and Ben Hilfenhaus, the Wankhede hammering at the hands of Dwayne Smith notwithstanding, is doing a decent job.
The West Indians too are proving to be a handful. Chris Gayle has single-handedly won matches for RCB, Dwayne Smith set alight the Wankhede in his first appearance, Marlon Samuels was good in patches and Kieron Pollard hasnt done too badly. The same perhaps can be said of the South Africans. Leading the charge is AB De Villiers, surely the best finisher in IPL season five. Johan Botha continues to impress as does Faf Du Plessis and Morne Morkel. Steyn too has been reasonable making South Africa a strong contender for the world title in September.
While not many of the English stars played in the competition, the way Kevin Pietersen had asserted himself is proof he will surely play a key part in the defending champions World Cup campaign.
In sum, it isnt looking very good for India despite playing a host of T-20 games. After our surprise win in the first edition of the T-20 world cup, we did not make the semi-finals in the next two world cups and lost all our super six games in the second edition of the competition in England in 2009 and in the third edition of the tournament in the Caribbean in April 2010.
If the Indians are to change this record, it is time some of our stars start performing to potential in the final stretch of the tournament.
In all this I have consciously not mentioned Harbhajan Singh. The sardar hasnt set the IPL on fire by any means. He isnt among the leading wicket takers and is at best an average captain. But having watched his bowling in the last few matches, there is considerable hope that he is gradually bowling close to his best. Beating Chris Gayle with flight and turn at the Wankhede with regularity, Harbhajan, perhaps, deserves another crack at India colours.
He still has the charisma and may be a national call up will offer him the necessary motivation to excel in Sri Lanka at the world stage.
Amidst all the gloom, the silver lining is surely the performance of Sehwag. Having never played to potential in the T-20 format, Sehwag has just captured the imagination of all in this edition of the IPL.
Without doubt he is our best bet at the top of the order. And one important statistic is that Sehwag was out because of injury in 2009 and 2010, tournaments that India lost. Can he once again be the X factor come September
The writer is a sport historian