The core matters
The core group is expected to be the same as the 17-member Asia Cup squad and travelling standby player Sanju Samson named by the Ajit Agarkar-headed selection committee.
CHENNAI: Hours after India finish their match against Nepal in the Asia Cup, on September 4 in Pallekele (Sri Lanka), the deadline for announcing provisional squad of 15 members for the ODI World Cup will be closing in. This essentially means, India will have, at best, two ODIs before they name their provisional squad. The 2011 champions though can make further changes in the squad until September 28 but it’s highly unlikely that the final squad of 15 (plus three reserves) for the marquee event would see notable changes.
The core group is expected to be the same as the 17-member Asia Cup squad and travelling standby player Sanju Samson named by the Ajit Agarkar-headed selection committee. The skipper Rohit Sharma, however, said after the announcement of the squad on August 21 that anyone can come in anytime depending on the requirements of the team. And this can make the final 15 for the 50-over World Cup interesting. “We thought about an offspinner as well, [R] Ashwin and Washy [Washington Sundar], but right now you see (Yuzvendra) Chahal had to miss out because we could only pick 17 players. Having said that, no doors are closed on anyone. Anyone can come in anytime. If we feel like we need Chahal for the World Cup, we’ll see how we can squeeze him in, same goes for Washy or Ashwin,” Rohit had said then.
Having said that, a lot will depend on returning KL Rahul’s fitness, who though had recovered from a thigh injury and surgery thereafter but developed a niggle as was informed by the chairman of selectors Agarkar. Playing as a middle-order batter apart from handling wicketkeeping duties, Rahul’s availability would automatically mean neither Ishan Kishan or Sanju Samson could find a place in the playing XI.
Kishan anyway has scored 425 of his 694 runs in 17 ODIs as an opener. Importantly, all these runs came in just six innings including the double ton (210 off 131) he hammered in December last year against hosts Bangladesh. Given his impressive records at the top order, Kishan, in all probability, will be a back-up opener for Rohit and Shubman Gill. For him to fit in the playing XI, Rohit has to bat down the order, which looks unlikely as India can play a maximum of six matches if they reach the Asia Cup final. The tournament will be followed by three ODIs at home against Australia before the hosts begin their World Cup campaign. They though will play two warm-up matches (against England and Netherlands on September 30 and October 3 respectively) but those ties are scheduled after the date of announcement of the final squad of 15.
Shreyas Iyer is set to occupy the No 4 slot with Rahul and vice-captain Hardik Pandya expected to follow him. Again a lot will depend on team management as it may prefer to manage the workloads of both Iyer and Rahul (who are making a return after surgery, Iyer underwent back surgery). In that case, Suryakumar Yadav can find a place in the team as a middle-order batter despite his modest outing in the format.
“One thing I want in this team is to make sure everyone is okay to bat anywhere. You need flexibility, guys who can step up at any position. No one should say, ‘I’m good at this position or I’m good at that position’. You want guys to be able to bat anywhere, that’s the message conveyed to every individual,” the captain had said.
Possible 15-member squad for WC
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj
Who could fit in where
Kishan can be a back-up opener while Surya can be a back-up middle-order batter. Similarly, Shardul and Axar can be an option in the pace and spin departments respectively.
Tilak Varma and Prasidh Krishna can be among three reserves along with Sanju Samson.
With only a wrist spinner, Chahal can be in the reckoning depending on the performance of Kuldeep. Besides, offie Ashwin and Washington can also be called in for the World Cup if the team needs their services.