India have finally announced their World Cup squad. Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu have missed out on World Cup spots. It’s rather perplexing that India opted for an experienced reserve keeper-batsman in Dinesh Karthik in place of young, dynamic and big hitter Pant, while choosing a young, just 5-innings old, Vijay Shankar in place of Ambati Rayudu, for No 4 spot.
Nevertheless, India will have to do with the available resources and hope they will bring the World Cup title home once again.
Cricwizz takes a look at the best XI that India should field in the World Cup and stick to it.
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma
There were concerns regarding Shikhar Dhawan’s form. But the southpaw silenced all critics with a match-winning knock of 97 for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2019 against KKR.
Dhawan has always reserved his best for ICC tournaments, be it 2013 Champions Trophy, or 2015 World Cup. He and Rohit Sharma make one of the most devastating Indian openers ever and in the world currently. The two would be expected to give explosive and steady starts consistently in the World Cup. It has not happened in limited-overs cricket recently.
India depend heavily on their top-order to fire as their middle-order continues to be shaky despite too many experiments for the No 4 spot before the World Cup.
Rohit needs to shrug off his indifferent form of late and must come out all guns blazing in the World Cup. The two openers will be persisted with even if one of them hits a rough patch despite KL Rahul being in the reserves. Unless one of them gets injured, Rahul is likely to warm the benches.
Virat Kohli is certain to bat at No 3
Although Indian coach Ravi Shastri said he would like his best batsman in Virat Kohli to bat at no 4, he will play at his usual place at No 3 as that’s the spot where the Indian skipper can play his natural game, take the match under his control and dictate terms to the opposition.
Kohli has the best records at No 3 and you would like your best batsman to play the most overs and take the game into the opposition’s camp. And Kohli has made it a habit in his international career.
Vijay Shankar at No 4
Selectors have gone for promise than experience for the No 4 spot. They have dumped an inconsistent Ambati Rayudu for a promising youngster in Vijay Shankar at No 4.
Shankar played a couple of impressive innings at No 4, scoring match-winning 40s. But what shifted the selector’s faith in Shankar is his composed and unruffled innings when the top-order has collapsed in the ODI series vs New Zealand and Australia.
In the Nagpur ODI against Australia, he even outscored Virat Kohli while scoring a brisk 46 and rescuing India from 3/75 to 250. Besides, Shankar’s multiple utilities as a bowler and fielder shifted the balance in his favour.
Keeper in MS Dhoni
Dhoni will get the nod ahead of Dinesh Karthik anytime in the XI in World Cup unless the veteran is injured or the team management experiments with Karthik at No 4 as a specialist batsman in place of Shankar.
Nevertheless, Dhoni is the first choice to keep wickets in the World Cup. He is also entrusted with the responsibility of seeing the chase through in the company of tailenders.
He will be the second captain in command and will be helping out in setting the field while Kohli mans the boundary. Dhoni will also give his share of advice to bowlers and assist the captain in DRS.
Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya
Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya will be the all-rounders in the XI. While Kedar will rally the lower-order and don the finisher’s job, Pandya may be used as a floater to maximise team’s chances.
Pandya could be sent higher in the batting order as a pinch hitter if the top-order sets a platform for a big total or he may bat in the lower-order to score few big hits in the death overs to shift the momentum in India’s favour.
Both Kedar and Pandya will be used as bowlers depending on the situation. If few overs need to be squeezed in the middle-overs or a stand needs to be broken, Kedar will be pressed into service.
Pandya will be asked to bowl in the middle-overs to maintain the pressure over the opponents.
Spinner in Kuldeep Yadav
England conditions do not necessitate the need for two spinners unless the pitch favours tweakers directly. But that’s extremely rare. Hence, India would go with one spinner in their XI as they already have another part-time spinner in Jadhav who can bowl a few tidy overs of off-spin.
Among YS Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja, the left-arm chinaman bowler will be preferred over the two spinners in the squad. Kuldeep’s chinaman bowling is difficult to pick up or to read it off the pitch.
Kuldeep has had more success in overseas conditions than the other two spinners in the squad. Besides, Kuldeep has the backing of captain Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri ahead of other spinners.
Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah
The England conditions ask for an aggressive set to bowlers who can make the best use of pace-friendly conditions. India may field all their three specialist pacers with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami opening the bowling, while Jasprit Bumrah being used as a first-change bowler and in the death-overs to give no respite to the opposition.
India have gone with just three specialist pacers in the squad and that could prove to be a disadvantage if either of them suffers an injury or is indisposed.
If so, then Shankar or Hardik Pandya would be called on to deliver more overs and play the third specialist bowler.
Possible XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (captain), Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (keeper), Kedar Jadhav, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Reserve bench: When will they get their chance?
Rahul can get a place in the XI if either of regular openers Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan gets injured or is unfit. Besides, Rahul may be tried at No 4 if Shankar fails to live up to expectations. But the first-choice for No 4, Shankar, will be persisted with unless a dramatic poor run of scores could see him lose his place.
Jadeja has been roped in the squad as a third spinner, but he would get to play as an all-rounder. Kedar Jadhav faces competition from Jadeja for the all-rounder’s spot.
Jadeja can be brought into the XI to add more depth to the batting line-up while giving the spin options more edge. Jadeja has a brilliant record in England. He was the highest wicket-taker in 2013 Champions Trophy in England, taking 12 wickets. Hence, Jadeja cannot be ignored completely and could make his presence felt in the later games.
In recent times, Virat Kohli has been reluctant to go with his spin combo of YS Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the same match. It’s not clear why as both seem to work well together. The two hunt in pair, having won India the ODI series 5-1 in South Africa in 2017.
But the England pitch and conditions may call for just one specialist spinner in the XI. Kuldeep will be the first-choice as he brings the element of mystery with himself. Chahal tends to leak runs. Chahal may replace Kuldeep later if the opposition cracks the Kuldeep code.
Karthik has been included as a second keeper in the squad ahead of the big-hitter Rishabh Pant. So, it’s likely the team management is not looking at Karthik as just the reserve keeper, but also as a specialist batsman who can bat at No 4 if Shankar fails to get going. Karthik may even don the role of a finisher in the lower order, while MS Dhoni gets to bat at No 4. India might go for a game of musical chairs for the No 4 spot in World Cup too.