ICC World Cup 2019 Team India Squad: Virat Kohli’s squad thin on batting, middle-order a concern
ICC World Cup 2019: The squad lacks is a middle-order batsman of repute and a finisher who takes minimum time to shift gears. That’s quite a departure from the years.Updated: Apr 17, 2019 12:13 IST
Picking specialists is an extension of Virat Kohli’s Test selection policy but this time it has produced a World Cup squad that looks really thin on batting. Going by the primary role of the players, the 15-member India squad has five bowlers — Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – four all-rounders — Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja — two wicket-keepers – MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik -- and only four specialist batsmen — Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul.
This squad has possibly the best opening batsmen, the best batsman of this generation, a legendary wicket-keeper and tactician as well as a balanced bowling attack. What it lacks is a middle-order batsman of repute and a finisher who takes minimum time to shift gears. That’s quite a departure from the years — as recent as last World Cup — India had bragging rights in these departments.
For the first time since 1996, India has picked only one left-handed batsman – other than Jadeja -- in a World Cup squad. Over the last two decades, India has had an abundance of left-handed batsmen, since Vinod Kambli stormed the Test stage with two double centuries in his first four Tests. We are also talking Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina — all featuring in multiple World Cups.
The 2003 World Cup had four left-handed batsmen — Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Mongia. This was eight years before Yuvraj went on to become Player-of-the- Tournament in India’s first World Cup win in 28 years.
On Monday though, Rishabh Pant’s exuberance was sacrificed on the altar of Dinesh Karthik’s experience as wicket-keeper. And while Kohli will have the last say on this, chief selector MSK Prasad said Karthik will not play when Dhoni is in the team. So, Karthik won’t be the No 4 batsman. Also, if the chief selector believes Karthik is a better wicket-keeper than Pant, why isn’t he keeping in Tests?
Coming back to the middle order, it does not give a cohesive look, and may also not feature Rahul, who has been declared a reserve opener by Prasad. Something’s amiss because India can’t have Karthik and Rahul travel around the United Kingdom as backups with a middle-order thin on experience. The permutations and combinations leave Shankar as the only viable batting option, around Dhoni and Jadhav; but that also means we are looking at a very long tail. To veto Ambati Rayudu’s 55-match experience in favour of a career that hasn’t even touched double figures is a risky proposition. Moreover, isn’t it unfair to pit a specialist batsman against an all-rounder?
There is also the question whether Pandya will bowl his full quota of overs. Picking Shankar is akin to selecting Bumrah for the Test series in South Africa in 2018 — he will definitely play. Does that mean Pandya will be dropped when Shankar is selected? Because if both play, a specialist seamer may have to sit out. That too sounds bold.
But that has been theme with Kohli in charge. Know your responsibilities, try and exceed yourself and don’t mope around if you are dropped. That is how India won a Test series in Australia. That is how they are hoping a World Cup can be won. This is a new India that has sent a message that unlike in the past, they don’t believe in unnecessarily stacking the squad with batsmen. They would rather pick players with specific skills. Foolhardy or smart, you will know how it worked out by July 14.
First Published: Apr 16, 2019 09:00 IST