World Cup Musing: Dream XI or Nightmare XI? Veterans Confuse More Than They Clarify

The social media have done something funny to our former cricketers. They no longer disappear into the shadows after hanging up their boots; they invade the present like the ghost of Banquo in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and keep addling our already overburdened brains with frivolous chatter.

Many of them have turned oracles spewing wisdom and prophecies at the drop of a hat as if they only won matches during their days and never lost, never made an imperfect call. They also spew venom, a good deal of it, at their rivals ages ago and present day cricketers. Check out Gautam Gambhir’s utterances. If the fans of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli are miffed with this gentleman, you know it’s not without reason. Several of his contemporaries are so busy reminding us of their greatness that it leaves one wondering whether they are padding up for a second innings in cricket. Even venerable genarians from the generation of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev are not immune to the attention-seeking malaise.

With a few days to go for the World Cup, they have been on the overdrive, finding faults with selection of players, rooting for their favourites and treating selectors as a bunch of ignoramuses. The lay cricket lover also added to the din whatwith businesses coaxing them to form Dream XIs and offering incentives for it. Go through all of it and you are left in a mess. If you feel after distilling so many opinions, including that of veterans, you would find the perfect team, you are mistaken. Just have a look at the filtered version, it’s still a great ball of confusion.

Let’s begin with the pace department. Here’s the distilled view: Cannot do without Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd Shami and Mohd Siraj in the pace attack. Bumrah is fit and pure gold as ever. The other two are in terrific form and have been among wickets in recent times. If the team is looking to capture ten wickets every match, then none is expendable.

Need quality tweakers to finish off the opposition batting if pacers get a poor pitch or just having a bad day. So Kuldeep Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin are a must. If possible, get Yuzvendra Chahal in. Complemented by Ravindra Jadeja, the trio makes a formidable spin team.

Of course, we need all-rounders. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja select themselves. Why not bring in Axar Patel too? Covering the space between the middle order and the late middle order, they would be the spine of the team. Nothing can go wrong if the threesome is the playing eleven.

Coming to batters, cannot do without Suryakumar Yadav or Ishan Kishan or Shubman Gill. All are a must. KL Rahul and Shreyas Aiyer are in great nick. No way they can be out of the team. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli select themselves. They bring experience to the table and have a proven track record in big events.

Phew! Done with the selection. The Dream Team is ready! Bring it on Kangaroos or the Black Caps or Bazballers or Proteas! We have a team of world-beaters. The World Cup is ours. It’s such a great feeling. Nothing can go wrong now.

Well, hold on. Let’s not celebrate in a hurry lest we regret later. We are required to select a Dream 11, not a crowd. With three pacers, three spinners, three all-rounders and seven batters we get a team of 15, not 11. The Dream 15 may look invincible, but the rules stipulate only 11 players in a team. So four players among the above have to move out to make the playing XI.

And the real problem begins now. Who do you pick and who do you leave out? The veterans have a habit of saying who should be in; they are less forthcoming about who should be out. It’s risky. Fans of the particular player may pounce on you on social media and tear you apart. When they are at it, they can be savages, mercilessly hammering away at the target’s image and reputation. Having favourite players is one thing, creating a perfect XI is quite another. It’s complicated. With many variables at work – the pitch, the weather, the opposition, the need for balance, the fitness of players – on a given match day, a fixed perfect XI is nearly impossible to find.

Hey guys! Why not take it easy? The selectors are mature people with more than a century of years of combined experience. They would not like their team to lose. Unlike the veterans and all Dream XI makers, they are accountable for their decisions. Why not let them take the call on players?

Coming back to former cricketers, it’s good if they stay off the social media. If they reduce themselves to trolls, they lose the hard-earned respect as great cricketers.

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