On the afternoon of Monday, April 15th, the Indian cricket selectors led by chairman MSK Prasad sat down with captain Virat Kohli to finalize the 15-man squad for June’s World Cup in England. This was just a day after Australia dropped Mohali heroes Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner from their 15-man squad in favour of the returning Warner and Smith.
The squad of 15 selected went thus:
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
The misses: Rishabh Pant, Ambati Rayadu
The long-shot misses: Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini, Shreyas Iyer
Here are five talking points about India’s final World Cup squad:
It was always going to come down to not just the much-debated no. 4 position but the extra wicket-keeper slot – both of which are intertwined. Dinesh Karthik was dropped for the recent ODI series against Australia, which India lost at home 2-3. This must be the only instance in which a player benefitted by not being selected rather than being selected and failing, which Rishabh Pant did, in the three innings he played. MS Dhoni was rested midway through the series, and Pant’s keeping was exposed, and he didn’t do enough with the bat to convince selectors of a wild-card World Cup slot. It’s probably Pant’s fault that he hasn’t impressed in his young international limited-overs career, but it’s also the administration’s fault for not taking a leap of faith and bolstering a slow, stuttering Indian middle order. Karthik hasn’t exactly been in great form either, but Pant could have played purely on strength of his batting.
SHANKAR ON TIME
Vijay Shankar has broken into the World Cup team, securing one of the most coveted flight tickets in sports. From a nightmare debut to short cameos, Shankar has made the most of his limited opportunities, but he will mostly play as a back-up to the other all-rounder Hardik Pandya in the team. One doesn’t see Shankar as a no. 4 option, and he is too technically correct to play at a position lower than that. Does he have the muscle required on those grounds? Is his bowling worth a gamble? For replacing a crowd favourite like Pant, he will face a lot of heat if he doesn’t come good.
NUMBER 4 STILL A MYSTERY
Will it be Dhoni? Karthik? Jadhav? Shankar? Or will KL Rahul play at 3 and Kohli at 4? As of now, the last option seems likely. The others take too long to get in, and will have to be shuffled according to whether India is chasing or batting first. Ever since Yuvraj Singh fell out of favour, India has struggled with this position. Pant would have been ideal if he had scored at least one freak century in the home series. But he missed the bus. And Rayadu showed great control until he missed the tour of England on fitness issues, and then lost form at a crucial juncture running up to the World Cup. Kohli had virtually assured Rayadu of this spot until the Australia series. Losing 2-3 changed a lot of things, including the management’s confidence in the CSK batsman.
Choosing Jadeja, Yadav and Chahal in the same squad might be a bit much, considering English conditions and Jadhav already in as a part-timer. At times, only one of them will be playing. Jadeja has been chosen on basis of his athleticism and energy, as well as “economical” bowling in the middle overs. But one wonders if perhaps choosing an extra fast bowler or extra batsman (Pant) might have served India better in June in England. Jadeja and Hardik in the same team won’t make sense either.
PANDYA THE FIFTH BOWLER
Hardik Pandya hasn’t exactly inspired confidence in any format of the game as a consistent bowler. He goes for runs, despite a good attitude. His length balls are a problem. One suspects he might share the fifth bowler slot with Jadhav if the team plays four pure bowlers in the form of Bumrah, Shami and the two spinners. Pandya needs to work on his bowling; he isn’t only in the team on basis of his six-hitting. He is also invaluable to India because he is the only aggressive hitter in the team. Either way, India will have a long tail.
Best XI: Rohit, Dhawan, Rahul, Kohli, Dhoni, Jadhav, Hardik, Kuldeep, Chahal, Shami, Bumrah
While we wait for the upcoming Word Cup, be sure to stay tuned for the latest updates about IPL.