VEDANT SHARMA | 21 FEBRUARY, 2019
Only a few slots are still up for grabs
The stage is almost set. The clouds over the iconic stadium in London are expected to clear. The tricolour will once again flutter from the top of the balcony at Lord’s. Then the national anthem - goosebumps.
And with this it will all begin, in just a few months’ time - India’s best chances of winning the 50-over World Cup.
Almost every cricket pundit has predicted an India–England final at Lord's, given how the two sides have shown promise and consistency over the past year.
But stepping back a bit, Team India is still struggling to find their best 15 players for cricket’s most prestigious tournament, and with just one bilateral series remaining before the World Cup, India will try to answer the unanswered.
Though the selectors might have zeroed in on a few players, it’s no secret that some slots are still up for grabs. With this in mind, here is the probable 15-member India squad for the upcoming World Cup.
Openers - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant
India’s vice-captain Rohit Sharma has been around for a while now. He and M.S.Dhoni are the only two players who featured in the 2007 T20 World Cup and will also be a part of the World Cup 2019. Sharma’s authority at the crease and in the field makes him so vital to this Indian squad, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he will be India’s first choice as opener.
Shikhar Dhawan is known as the man for ICC tournaments and he has proved it with his form. Playing his first ICC tournament back in 2013, Dhawan went all guns blazing to help India register a Champions Trophy title. He continued his dream run in the 2015 World Cup, amassing 412 runs at the astonishing average of 51.5. Seeing this consistency, he will definitely be India’s second opener.
Teams generally prefer to play major tournaments with an extra opener in case of injury. The team management has already tried Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul for this slot, but wasn’t convinced with their performances. They may well go by current form than anything else. In this scenario, Rishabh Pant will probably be the third opener.
Middle Order (Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav)
Can there be any doubt that Virat Kohli will feature in the India squad? He has proved his mettle on the world stage and knows how to produce match-winning performances. His conversion rate makes him stand out from the crowd. This World Cup, his role will be to anchor the innings and let the other batsmen play freely.
Hyderabad’s stylish cricketer Ambati Rayudu stamped his place in the side with some sensational performances against the Windies. He failed to convert good starts into big scores against Australia, but redemption came at just the right time for Rayudu, with a glorious 92-run innings against the Kiwis to pretty much confirm his World Cup spot.
The man with the golden arm, Kedar Jadhav is nothing but an asset to this India lineup. Introduced to the international circuit a few years back, Jadhav’s true strength was disclosed against England in 2017 when his batting alongside Virat Kohli helped India cross the winning line. Besides his contribution with the bat, Jadhav has time and again helped his skipper with crucial wickets, making him even more important for the World Cup.
Wicketkeeper (MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik)
It’s often said that keeping is a thankless job, in more ways than one. And in more ways than one we have been thankless to the great Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Before the start of the Australian tour, many raised an eyebrow at Dhoni’s inclusion in the side - and silently, true to style, he proved again what he is capable of.
Dinesh Karthik may well be the second keeper option for the team. With India playing nine league games, the management may opt to rest Dhoni for a game or two. In which case Karthik will surely be India’s choice to keep wicket.
All-Rounder (Hardik Pandya)
Hardik Pandya, currently India’s prize possession, has proved to be a revelation for the Indian team over the past year. His ability to hit sixes for fun, coupled with his all-around abilities, has made him one among the best.
Pandya can bat at any position, can bowl consistently for long spells, and has excellent fielding skills. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that with Hardik Pandya, India's search for a reliable all-rounder has finally come to an end.
Spinners (Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal)
India’s two spin sensations have grown by leaps and bounds. So much so, that it’s getting tough to recall when Ravichandran Ashwin last played in the coloured jersey. Yadav and Chahal have not only been able to prove their stature at the international level, but have made such a mark that the opposition invests the most time and effort in crafting strategies against these two wrist spinners. It’s almost certain that both will play their debut World Cup in May.
Fast-Bowlers (Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami)
India has time and again been told that a good bowling attack is more lethal than a power-packed batting line up. Its World Cup attack is likely to be led by right-arm quick Jasprit Bumrah, whose ability to extract wickets even on docile tracks makes him a go-to man for any side.
Kumar, who was considered just a new-ball bowler, has proved his critics wrong by picking more wickets at the end of the innings and restricting the run flow. India will be hoping to see his good stint continue till the World Cup clashes.
Mohammed Shami had a decent outing with the ball against Australia and New Zealand, making his case strong - and stronger than Khaleel Ahmed’s - to feature in the 15-member squad. The series against Australia will once again be an opportunity for Shami to confirm his tickets to England.
Finally, if at all the BCCI declares a 16- or 17-member squad, the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Khaleel Ahmed, and Umesh Yadav may well find themselves included.