“Overall, this Indian team has all based covered and now it is all about giving the players some game time in the middle in these pre-World Cup fixtures”
There are less than six months left for the World Cup and starting from the upcoming ODI series in Australia, India have only 13 more 50-over matches to identify its core group of 15 players for that pinnacle event in the cricket world. Hence, the stakes are high in the Indian camp and it is quite evident from the 16-member squad the selection committee has picked for three-match series in Down Under and subsequent five ODIs in New Zealand.
After a while, the selectors have had the liberty of picking a full-strength squad as there hasn’t been any injury concern among the first-choice players. This is the best possible Indian ODI team at this moment and without any unavoidable circumstances, the best 15 players from this group will travel to England next year.
Two notable exclusions from the squad are wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and middle-order batsman Manish Pandey. Both were a part of the Indian dressing room in the last ODI series against the Windies at home.
Pandey was on the bench for all five ODIs against Windies, whereas during the T20I-leg of the tour, he batted twice but failed to make any significant impact. Pant, meanwhile, played three of the five ODIs against the boys from the Caribbean as a specialist batsman, and scored 17 and 24. Perhaps, the team management, as well as the selectors, consider that the duo needs further grooming and for a tournament like the World Cup, they will be a risky proposition. So, in their place, experienced Dinesh Karthik and a fit Hardik Pandya have been included for this Southern Hemisphere tour.
Though here the author believes Pant’s World Cup dreams are yet not over. India need a second wicketkeeper and if Karthik fails to deliver this time, the Delhi-boy will be the only option left for the selectors. According to the BCCI’s selection release, following the Test matches in Australia, Pant will return home to play for India A in a five-match one-day series against England Lions. So, the selectors are keeping him in the loop for sure.
Nevertheless, following the back injury, Pandya’s comeback in the mix will add a much-needed balance in the squad. Especially, in Australian and New Zealand conditions, he is a huge asset to the team.
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Also, the MSK Prasad-led selection panel has brought middle-order batsman Kedar Jadhav back in the squad, which is a clear indication that he is in the World Cup scheme of things. Jadhav played first two ODIs against Windies but was dropped for the last three, because of fitness issues.
“We did not pick Kedar because of his history of fitness,” chief selector Prasad was quoted as saying by PTI back then. “There have been occasions earlier when he has come back fit and then broke down, a case in point being the Asia Cup last month.”
It seems Jadhav has got the strong message which the selectors wanted to convey. While being out of the team he worked on his fitness and played two First-Class matches for his domestic team Maharashtra. And now here he is, back where he belongs. He has even been picked for three T20Is against New Zealand – a series which the Indian think-tank will use as a match practice going into the World Cup.
Interestingly, KL Rahul, despite his failures at the international level in the recent past, has managed to keep his place in the ODI squad. Of late, in 50-over format, he is not a first-choice member of the playing XI. In fact, his last ODI outing was against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup, the only match he played in the entire tournament, during India’s victorious campaign. Still, Rahul is India’s third opener and a likely World Cup probable.
With obvious names featuring in the rest of the batting department, there is hardly any uncertainty to point out.
In bowling, the selectors have gone with Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Shami as the four frontline pacers alongside the backup medium pace of Pandya. Whereas the spin attack will be looked after by Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja.
Considering the World Cup scenario, this has to be the best possible Indian attack. The only vulnerable member in this group is Shami. Earlier in October during the ODI series against Windies, the 27-year old made a comeback international white-ball cricket after a gap of one year. But he looked completely out of sorts in the first two games and was subsequently being left out of the squad for rest of the series. So, if Shami wants to secure his ticket for the England-bound flight next year, the pacer has to get into the grooves quickly in this format. And the pitches in Australia and New Zealand will be favouring his sort of hit the deck type of bowling.
Overall, this Indian team has all based covered and now it is all about giving the players some game time in the middle in these pre-World Cup fixtures.
Indian squad for ODIs in Australia and New Zealand:
Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami.