A team for the World Twenty20
When India's selectors sit down to pick the team for the ICC World Twenty20 they will have to choose between form and class. It is not an easy choice, for in an ideal world both would go together. But it is a contest in which class must prevail, and the selectors must hope that Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, in particular, use the month available to become match-winners again.
The selectors must decide on eight batsmen and seven bowlers. They cannot compromise by picking fewer bowlers on the assumption that on some days the batsmen will chip in, because on days they don't, the game could be lost. Of those eight batsmen, two should be wicketkeepers, and India are well served in this area since both those can play as batsmen. Ideally two of them should be able to bowl. Similarly, of the seven bowlers picked, two must hold their own with the bat. That will give the team the balance that Twenty20 cricket demands.
Now let's see what we have and pick the players who walk in. Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Raina, Yuvraj (class over form), Yusuf Pathan, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. Now that is only nine and straightaway the first problem becomes apparent. Where are the bowlers? You need five seamers and two spinners, so let's start shortlisting those.
The options with seamers are Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth, RP Singh and Vinay Kumar. None of them bat, and though Zaheer can swing his bat a bit and Praveen Kumar can provide a few bonus runs here and there, it isn't good enough. And so I'm going to go a bit left field and insist that Irfan Pathan be in the side. I believe he has a huge amount to contribute, and it helps that he is willing to do anything a captain asks him to.
I have been a bit surprised by the way Kumar Sangakkara has used him for the King's XI. At Pathan's current pace I am not sure he can bowl the first over, or indeed the last three, where he can become predictable. I believe his place in the side is as a fifth bowler and lower-order batsman, and in that role he bowls largely in the middle overs.
So with him as the 10th player, we need to look at three seamers. Praveen must be one. Nehra could be a second if he his fit, and then you choose between Sreesanth, RP and Ishant. Neither is in any kind of form and it is one of those decisions where you go with the captain's gut feel. But RP is probably best equipped.
The second spinner is relatively easier to choose, since a left-armer is good value in this format. The top two spinners of that variety in India at the moment are Murali Kartik and Pragyan Ojha, but given that our seamers don't bat, that place will need to go to an allrounder and therefore to Ravindra Jadeja, who is clearly the third best spinner out of three. But he is good value in this format and so he becomes player No. 14.
The most contentious issue would be to assign the last batting spot. I believe there are four strong batting contenders: Manish Pandey, Virat Kohli, Robin Uthappa and Rohit Sharma, each of whom comes with strong skills. If you want a back-up for Gambhir and Sehwag, then I guess Pandey is the man; if a back-up for Yuvraj to bat in the middle overs (as many as there are), then Kohli could be the player, and if the selectors are looking for a strong finisher then either of Uthappa or Sharma, both of whom can bat anywhere in the order. Eventually it will be the captain's call but it is a dead heat for me.
I don't think India will start favourites given current form and possible fatigue (though that can only be as much of an excuse as a sales representative complaining after 20 days on the road), but I believe this playing XI will give India the best possible chance. In batting order: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar and Zaheer Khan .
Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer