april 1999 -The world cup is soon to be here folks.As seems to have become the rule , the indian team is driving its supporters crazy with its wild fluctuations of form. The selectors have cotributed to this carnival by blooding so many players that one regrets not having pursued cricket actively, thus missing out a chance of earning an India cap. albeit for just one or two matches. This activity has been carried out in the name of choosing the team for the world cup, though every follower will tell you that the team more or less picks itself. Lets start with the certainities. Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Robin Singh, Javaagal Srinath, Nayan Mongia and Anil Kumble. Everyone agreed so far. Nine places remain. The news of Mohd. Azharuddin being unfit has sent millions scampering to temples, mosques etc to pray. However the Gods are a bit surprised that the prayers are for a prolongation of his affliction rather than his speedy recovery. Azhar is on a hattrick of lost world cups, and one knows him to be rather fond of hattricks, after all thats how he arrived on the cricketing stage. How fickle the mob is. Considering he is fit, then he automatically selects himself, though one wishes he could be kept on as a non-playing captain. He would be required to win the toss and deliver the ususal post-match press talk blaming our poor fielding. So now eight places remain. Four playing and four reserves. Pencilling in Rahul Dravid, Ajay Jadeja, Venkatesh Prasad, Ajit Agarkar the playing eleven becomes complete. The four places left go to Sadagopalan Ramesh, Nikhil Chopra, Amay Khurasia and Laxmi Ratan Shukla. Of course the selctors in their infinite wisdom might prefer Gyanendra pandey over Chopra, Kambli over Khurasia while Kanitkar, Sehwag might also get a push in. But I doubt it this time. Khurasiya has impressed coz he has a solid physique in the Jadeja mould and nice footwork. Also he has years of experience[hes 26] and this should swing the vote in his favor. It always helps to have as a backup batsman someone who has learnt the tricks and has been around and so he should get the nod over Sehwag the hard hitting jat from Delhi. Against quality bowling on friendly pitches though he will be equally incompetent as the rest of the indian team, barring perhaps sachin and robin, so that should not deter the selectors from picking him. Given a free hand I would put Robin singh [ hats off to you raghu ] as captain and replace Azhar with Ramesh if sachin wouldnt like to open and with Khurasia if he would. That should settle this matter once and for all. Lets see what happens though. One factor which seems to have escaped most people is the absence of Sachin. True he suffered back spasms in the first test against the Paks, but he then played on for two more tests and then went to seek medical attention. The master it seems does not have a serious problem but went more for a thorough checkup and tune-up of the body machine prior to the world cup. His mind has already shifted to the stage at lords, where warriors from a dozen nations shall gather in a months time to fight for crickets greatest prize in the land of its birth. His retreat into seclusiion bodes ill for the opposition and has an ominous ring to it. For remember this is the man who prepares for his battles. This is the same person whom Shane warne found so well prepared that not only did Sachin win the contest of bat and ball, but he also in his effort to unravel the mysteries of leg-spin learnt so much that he emerged no mean leg spinner himself. Who knows what mischief he is planning for this world cup. World cups have been won as much off the field as on it in recent times. Remember the masterly tactics of Martin Crowe that nearly won the world cup. It surely must rank as one of the greatest injustices in cricket, that this extremely talented cricketer had to sit out of the semi-final watching all the hard work being swept away by pakistan whom ironically he had granted a fresh lease of life. Then came Sri Lanka and Ranatunga who realised that the lofted shot in Subcontinental conditions has a greater probability of success because the ball does not move so much. The theory went that it was difficult for a side to be bowled out in fifty overs on these dry pitches, so just keep the run rate up and forget about the wickets. For the final they had one quality batsman in Aravinda desilva and that was enough. What tactics would be best for England. One hopes Azhar is devoting his time to this speculation in his home in Hyderabad but it is certain that Sachin is doing so in Mumbai. There shall be the South Africans with Donald, Pollock and Kallis, the miraculaously re-invented West Indians with Ambrose, Walsh, New Zealand with Larsen, harris and their usual bag of tricks, England with Gough and the home advantage, Pakistan with Akram, Akhtar, Saqlain, Australia with Mcgrath, Warne and Waugh, Srilanka with Murali and Vaas. India brings to the party the skills of Srinath, Prasad, Agarkar, Robin and Kumble. Not bad at all considering the backup bowling is Ganguly and Sachin.So in the bowling at least on paper we are in the same league. The batting line up of all the countries this world cup is uniformly brittle. So it just might be a bowlers world cup. That is unless Sachin has thought of something in his flat in Mumbai. This is the man who will make the difference, mark my words. India will have to pull together as a team , that goes beyond saying as also does the fact that when it comes to the crunch Sachin must come good. Cricketers all around the world beware, while you have been going about your business, a young lad has chosen to sit down quietly in a corner and think. The rest must have done his body good and the absence from centre stage stoked his appetite. When India were hard pressed to qualify for the final in Sharjah last season, Sachin stood firm and gradually the position improved till it seemed that India would certainly qualify for the finals. As he stepped on the tempo, suddenly the truth dawned Richie Benaud commenting live on TV. It seemed so incredible that he first couldnt believe it, then as the pace of runs quickened even further and Kasparowicz started to consider retirement and a quiet life, that Benaud exclaimed, ' He's trying to win the match, Oh my god, forget about just qualifying, Sachin Tendulkar is trying to win the match'. And we Indians watching nodded our heads sagely. Hell we could have told him that long back, this man plays to win. He'll be playing this summer and everyone make sure you grab a ringside seat. This just might be another Indian Summer. Pandey hope you will find a nice ringside seat. Listen , I am planning to go down to Roorkee on the sixteenth of this month and finally get me degree. Dhiman is still not allowed to roam about, so i am going alone. Most probably i'll resign from my job by then, ive served six months and that is more than enough. The only thing that was good about this job was the net-access and my pc 256 mb ram and pII 350. Will then think once more about apping. Can you find some info about New jersey Institute of Technology. Also can you find out about where can i get a MS in comp graphics\ graphic design\ etc. Another funda is my final year marksheet shows discipline marks at 50 out of hundred. What should i do, try to explain it, try to fudge it, or hope they dont notice. Agar apping nipat gayi, to I am going to delhi or bombay or madras and give the old dream of starving and writing a shot. The first part should be easy. I have read so much over the last six months that its literally coming out of my ears , and if i dont try now, i dont think i ever will, but this is a distant priority right now, abhi to 30th april ke baad ye sab sochoonga. Waise teri univ mein kuch hai kya, graphics shaphics ka ya mass comm. types. keep in touch. akash