India on Tuesday announced the squad for the ODI World Cup due to start in India from October 5, with the untested KL Rahul – returning from a long injury layoff – being named in the squad. While Rahul has cleared the fitness test at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), he has had no game time since injuring his hamstring during the IPL earlier this year.
The 15-member team wore the same look as the 17-member team currently playing in Asia Cup, with two changes – Prasidh Krishna and rookie Tilak Varma missed out.
Fit-again KL Rahul in India’s 15-member World Cup squad
Adding depth to the batting was the centre issue of the selection meeting. That line of thinking worked in favour of Shardul Thakur, who pipped Prasidh Krishna for the fourth pacer’s spot besides Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj.
Axar Patel’s selection ahead of specialist spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal also revolved around the same theory.
The squad lacks an off-spinning allrounder. Selectors, who have opted for an extra left-arm spinner, could have considered R Ashwin or Washington Sundar. The former’s experience, temperament and awareness will be missed. Remember how he let go the Mohd Nawaz delivery in the last over to win us the game against Pakistan in last year’s T20 World Cup. There’s no left-arm pacer either. Also, we hope the gamble to include Surya, who is yet to prove himself in the genre, pays off.
“We need to create that depth (in batting and bowling) as it was lacking in our team for the last few years. When we talk about depth in batting, that No. 9, No. 8 positions become very crucial,” India captain Rohit Sharma said while as the team was announced in Pallekele on Tuesday.
“This is the best we can do with balance and depth. We have three allrounders in the team, four bowlers and six batters. We have thought about it a lot and named this squad. This is the best combination for us,” he added.
“The 50-over format is different, especially where you play nine league games and semifinals and finals – 11 games. There’s always a chance for you to make a comeback. It gives you more time to think about strategy and what you’re going to execute as a team. Yes, the ODIs do give you a little more breathing space,” Rohit said, explaining the rationale behind having more allrounders than specialists in the squad.
The focus was always going to be on bringing stability to an Indian middle-order that has become shakier by the day in ODI cricket. The injuries to KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant this year meant the uncertainty dragged right up to the selection meeting.
Suryakumar Yadav, despite his ordinary ODI record, has found a place on the back of his T20 performances and experience of playing two T20 World Cups. Rahul has been identified as the best bet to bat at No. 5 while Iyer is slated to start at No. 4.
India cricket World Cup squad: Sanju Samson loses out again; KL Rahul gets another chance | Watch Full press conference
WHO WILL KEEP WICKETS?
As TOI reported on Monday, Rahul’s wicket-keeping fitness in a full 50-over match is yet to be ascertained. “KL is looking good. We feel this gives us the best balance to try and do well. KL was part of the camp in Bangalore, and he looked really good there and has got over his niggle. He played a couple of games over the last two days (at NCA).
“He kept for 50 overs and batted for around 50 overs too, so we’re happy to have him,” chief selector Ajit Agarkar tried to allay fears around Rahul.
Ishan Kishan’s evolution as an ODI cricketer was marked by his mature knock against Pakistan in the last Asia Cup match. Both Rohit and Agarkar remained noncommittal about who would be the first-choice wicketkeeper in the World Cup. “It’s a good headache to have. Kishan played well recently, and he plays well at the top. KL’s record in ODIs is brilliant. We can pick and choose between the two who will fight for a spot in the team,” said Agarkar.
Sanju Samson out, KL Rahul in: India announces 2023 World Cup squad
Ishan’s selection serves a dual purpose as backup opener and backup wicketkeeper. However, vice-captain Hardik Pandya has emerged as the most crucial link in the team.
His evolved batting and ability to bowl medium-pace for more close to 10 overs offers the balance that the team management is desperately seeking. “His form will be crucial to us. In the last year or so he has come up with the bat and his bowling has been good too. That’s important for us,” said Rohit.
India have gone with a team that is yet to play as a settled unit. The team has been picked on combination theories. They will hope they can test it in the few remaining ODIs leading to the World Cup. They are cutting that fine!