While pre-selection talk has been about filling one or two slots, there won’t be any shortage of robust deliberation as national selectors sit down to pick India’s ICC World Cup squad at the BCCI’s Cricket Centre in Churchgate today
India skipper Virat Kohli. Pic/PTI
The 15-member squad that the national selectors picked for the last three ODIs against Australia on February 15 reflected India’s World Cup roster to several pundits. The squad was: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Vijay Shankar, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant.
Exactly two months later, when MSK Prasad & Co meet today at the BCCI headquarters to pick the World Cup team, they could well come up with the same squad, but there wouldn’t be any shortage of discussions over it. Pre-selection talk was all about, “one or two slots to fill” but it isn’t as simple. The selectors will have to take into consideration the permutations and combinations, depending on the conditions and the fickle English weather. That’s what makes selection of all the squads harder since the conditions change in England swifter and India know this through their past success and failures.
First, the certainties: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. With possible flat pitches during the World Cup, the selectors will have to strengthen the batting department to enable India post big totals. The other side to this discussion could be to have all-rounders, who can add to Hardik Pandya’s presence.
Whether to include a spinning all-rounder or a medium pace all-rounder may give rise to heavy brainstorming in the selection room today. The options that the selectors can ponder over are Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja. Shankar may have played just nine ODIs, but the Tamil Nadu player has managed to make an impact on the Indian team management. Though Shankar was part of the Indian team for the ODI series in Australia and New Zealand, he had an opportunity to bat in just one match [45 v NZ in Wellington].
He went wicketless in both series. Still, it was enough for chairman of selectors Prasad to opine that Shankar has changed the dynamics of team selection [for the World Cup]. Shankar’s ability came to the fore in the five-match ODI series against Australia at home where he scored 120 runs in four innings, a performance that brought out the street smart cricketer in him. He also proved that his medium pace can win matches for India; his 2-15 on a two-paced Nagpur pitch is worthy of mention.
Jadeja’s experience (151 ODIs) can’t be ignored too. The left-arm spinner’s 50-over cricket performance in England is far better than in any other country — averaging 70.25 with 281 runs in just 10 innings and 27 wickets in five matches. His splendid fielding is undisputed.
Big No. 4 spot
The No. 4 conundrum requires a closer look. With India auditioning 11 players for that spot since the 2017 Champions Trophy, it is one area that may be the weak link in Kohli’s team. There are several contenders [KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Shankar and Ambati Rayudu] but who will Team India go with is to be seen. Rayudu was the original choice after he top-scored [190 runs] in the New Zealand series, but his poor form [33 runs in the ODI series against Australia at home and just 138 runs in eight IPL games could go against him. Rahul could be considered for the No. 4 spot along with Pant. Rahul’s return to form augurs well for the Indian team and Pant could play the role that left-handers Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina did during India’s 2011 World Cup-winning campaign. That Pant has been playing at No. 4 in most of the IPL matches for Delhi Capitals is an indicator as well.
The selectors may give the team management two options for the No. 4 spot — Rahul’s solidity or Pant’s flair. In that case, Rayudu is in a precarious position. As far as back-ups are concerned, Shankar could be in the mix as the second pacer all-rounder while Jadeja could be the spinning all-rounder. Mumbai boy Shreyas Iyer is also touted to be in the reckoning in case the Indian team management opts to carry an additional player in the eventuality of an injury.
Over to D Road, Churchgate.