The 15-member Indian World Cup squad will be picked on Monday and it’s very unlikely that the current crop of selectors, led by MSK Prasad, will pull off a 2003-like surprise, when Dinesh Mongia had trumped VVS Laxman.
The Indian squad for the upcoming World Cup though is almost settled, with the majority of the players picking themselves. Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Kedar Jadhav, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav will be part of the touring party.
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A void exists at No. 4 in the batting order. The selectors will have to decide if the team needs an extra seamer, or a third spinner in the form of Ravindra Jadeja will offer a better balance. Then, there’s the debate over the reserve wicketkeeper.
It’s unlikely that the selectors will tap into the ongoing IPL to fill the gaps. Kohli has already spoken about how performances in the IPL will have no bearing in the World Cup squad selection. “We need to be absolutely clear of what team we want for the World Cup. I don’t see anything changing on how the IPL goes for any of the players,” the skipper had said just about a month ago.
Expectedly, the selection committee will go by the performance in international white-ball cricket over the past couple of seasons. KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, Ambati Rayudu, Shreyas Iyer and Ajinkya Rahane are the contenders for the No. 4 slot.
Between January 1, 2018 and March 10 this year, Rahul, however, has featured in only four ODIs, scoring 95 runs. Rayudu was brought back to the ODI fold in September last year and since then he has scored 639 runs in 21 matches. Rayudu, however, is inconsistent and a tad susceptible in seaming conditions. Shankar has enhanced his reputation after making his ODI debut in Australia earlier this year. Also, he can double up as an extra seam-bowling allrounder. Both Rahane and Iyer haven’t featured in the ODIs for over a year now, but the former has the pedigree.
As for the second ‘keeper’s slot, Karthik had been part of the Indian team in Australia and New Zealand last winter, while Pant played two matches against Australia at home. That Pant is a left-hander, with already two overseas Test hundreds could tilt the balance in his favour.
Umesh Yadav could be part of the plan if an extra fast bowler is picked. Maybe, Navdeep Saini has impressed enough to be on the stand-by.