Few surprises in the World Cup squad
The Indian team has what it takes to be really competitiveUpdated: Apr 16, 2019 09:00 IST
India’s squad of 15 for the cricket World Cup in England offered few surprises. With the majority of the squad picking itself, the selectors debated two issues: the Number 4 batsman’s slot; and the second wicketkeeper. The selectors have gone for all rounder Vijay Shankar for the middle order position; and named versatile and experienced Dinesh Karthik ahead of the young, explosive Rishabh Pant as the wicketkeeper to be the backup to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Karthik has been deemed a better wicketkeeper by the selectors (although, if that is the case, it is hard to explain how Pant is India’s Test wicketkeeper ahead of him). But he does bring a great deal of variety to the table. He can bat in the middle order (he averages 52.80 at Number 4); he can bat lower down; and he can ignite the death overs of an innings and finish strongly under pressure.
While Karthik has been selected for his experience, the lack of it has not kept Shankar out. The batting all rounder has played in only nine ODIs, and averages 33, less than what the other contender for the position, Ambati Rayadu (42.18) since the 2015 World Cup. Selectors say Shankar will be useful as a change bowler if the conditions are favourable. If that’s the case, he may get a look-in ahead of the other contender, KL Rahul (average since 2015: 46.88) who is in the team.
Talking of bowling, India has a profligacy of riches. Nine of the squad of 15 can bowl. Other than the three specialist fast bowlers (Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar), and two spinners (Y Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav), there are four all rounders: Ravindra Jadeja; Kedar Jadhav; Hardik Pandya; and Shankar. Of the all rounders, it is hard to see anyone bowling a full complement of ten overs. So does India have more bits and pieces players than it needs? All rounders bring balance (and it is hard to think of an India squad that has packed so many), but only the greatest and truest all rounders can walk into a side by dint of either batting or bowling. None of the current lot would really qualify on that count.
The top three of India’s batting lineup is among the best in the world. In Virat Kohli, India has the contemporary game’s most prolific scorer and best chaser. Collectively, the fast bowling attack is the best India has had in the limited overs format. And the wrist spinners, quite the flavour of the season in world cricket now, are among the finest in the business. The unsettled look to the middle order remains. And so does the worry whether making Dhoni the first choice wicketkeeper will boomerang if India is chasing a large total and he is at the wicket in the middle overs. But the squad lacks neither variety nor balance, and has what it takes to be at least competitive in cricket’s premier limited overs tournament.
First Published: Apr 15, 2019 20:45 IST