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Was Pathan deliberately left out in first two ODIs against SA?
Now that Indian selectors have dropped Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and picked Pathan as a sole all-rounder for world cup, it should make him an automatic choice in playing eleven.
YUSUF PATHAN– with his recent troubleshooting efforts - has solved India’s ever vexing all-rounder problem but it has raised a more difficult question to answer. Who will sit out to accommodate Pathan? This is what they call a good selection dilemma to have.

Now that Indian selectors have dropped Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and picked Pathan as a sole all-rounder for world cup, it should make him an automatic choice in playing eleven. But if there is one person, who will think twice before accommodating Yusuf in playing eleven is none other than the skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

How else could you explain Dhoni dropping the    Baroda swashbuckler from first two ODIs against South Africa (SA) and preferring discards like Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay instead? It was only when Sachin Tendulkar got injured and Yusuf was looked at.

As it stands, looks like Dhoni does not have full faith in Pathan. Gautam Gambhir, on the other hand, gave a full run to Yusuf in the New Zealand series in the absence of Dhoni. Yusuf is also a more than useful bowler who can bowl 6-7 quick overs with 2-3 wickets at an economy of below five.

So what does this leave India with, when Sehwag, Sachin and Gambhir return to a full-strength one-day side? Which batsman will sit out to accommodate Yusuf? Dhoni on the other had has hinted that Piyush Chawla, R Aswhin and Harbhajan Singh as all-rounders to compete for a place with Yusuf.

In the Indian batting conditions, it will be naive not to include Yousuf in playing eleven. World cup needs match winners, who when they strike, can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Remember single- handed match winners from previous world cups? Inzamam (1992),  Adam Gilchrist(2007), Aravinda Dsilva (1996) are a few who added feathers to their caps. More than bits and pieces players, India needs a match winner. Yusuf Pathan who started his career as T-20 specialist has adapted very well to the 50-overs version also. Whenever his bat has struck, the opponents have felt pressure that they have finally succumbed to.

If India goes with seven batsman theory, then barring Dhoni there are only six seats left in the bus. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Raina are the six stars. Who will sit out to accommodate Pathan- this is a million dollar question. Based on current form – Kohli, Tendulkar, Yuvraj will make automatic choice. That leaves Sehwag and Raina’s place a little threatened. Of late – barring SA series, Sehwag has proved himself a better test batsman than a one day player.

On the other hand, inclusion of Virat Kohli in number 3 spot has made Raina feel uncomfortable and jittery and the recent dreary performance against South Africa has compounded the problem. His only asset is that he is Dhoni’s favorite boy. Gambhir has lost his prime form but he regained it a little bit against South Africa in tests. And again Gambhir is a captaincy material that Dhoni has lot of trust in.
So, again, who will you drop to accommodate Pathan? Strangely, Pathan perhaps does not come under Dhoni’s first choice playing eleven.

That is why Dhoni is building this ‘Ashwin -Chawla- Harbhajan – are –all- rounders’ logic. If this happens Dhoni will only be spoiling India’s chances in the world cup. If India have to win the world cup, Pathan has to play most matches and swing his arm both with the bat and ball. India needs to take really tough calls to “rest” star senior players to accommodate him.

This 2011 world cup is perhaps the best bet India has since 2003 given its superlative performance in recent times. India cannot let this slip due to small but strategic blunders.

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Ravikiran Shinde
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