Now as the focus shifts to the ODI WC at home next year we look at how must India's squad look for the mega event.
Indian cricket is going through a transition of sorts as the team’s attention shifts to ODIs from T20Is. In the last two years, the Men in Blue played two T20 WCs under two different captains but neither Kohli nor Rohit could win the WC. The concerning part of both tournaments was that the management seemed puzzled with its selections. The more striking part was in both tournaments India had different managements yet leading up to the WC they made similar mistakes. Now as the focus shifts to the ODI WC at home next year we look at how must India’s squad look for the mega event.
The incumbents are Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, but none of these two had the best time in this format this year. While Rohit’s year has been decent he has not played a lot of ODIs this year. Dhawan meanwhile has had his worse year since his debut in 2010. In the Bangladesh series, Dhawan could not reach double figures in three innings. He has been backed till now but with a new selection committee set to come in, it won’t be a bad idea to move away from the southpaw. Gill has been terrific for India this year in ODIs and he should be the ideal candidate to replace Dhawan at the top. But if the management wants a left-handed option at the top Ishan Kishan won’t be a bad choice as he too has done well in the opportunities he has got. Whoever the management wants at the top, they must give that individual enough games before the WC. They must shy away from trying new opening combinations as they did ahead of the T20 World Cups, where they tried the likes of Pant, Surya, Hooda, Ruturaj etc at the top.
The number 3 belongs to Virat Kohli and even though he has struggled this year in ODIs, we saw how he turned the tables in T20Is. So there should be no discussion about his place on the side. There should be no debates on who should be India’s number 4 for the WC as well. Shreyas Iyer became the fastest Indian to 1500 ODI runs and right now he averages more than 50 in ODIs and is a really good player of spin. He averages 74.4 against spinners and strikes at 100.0 against them, so there should be absolutely no question marks about his place in the side too.
The top two contenders for this place are KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant both of them have done more than enough to be a regular in the XI. But Pant’s T20I form means that his spot is under the scanner even in ODIs. In any case, the team management will have to take a call between these two and give them as many games as possible before the world cup. It is critical that the management gives them role clarity. Only one of the two can play in the XI so the management must look to avoid a situation in which they found themselves in the T20 WC between Karthik and Pant.
One would like to think that Hardik Pandya will slot in at 6 and Jadeja at 7 in an ideal situation but both of these players have been injury prone and have not played much cricket. Yes, Pandya started bowling and was good with the ball in the T20 WC but in the New Zealand series he did not bowl a single over so his fitness is always going to be a corner and with reports of him taking over T20I captaincy is correct then it means that he would have to deal with a lot of pressure. In that scenario what are the other options for India? If we have to look at seam bowling options then Venkatesh Iyer comes the closest. In Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021, he scored 379 runs at a strike rate of 133.92 and he also picked up 9 wickets in 6 games. He batted in the middle order for MP so this is a role in which he has experience. In SMAT 2022 he scored 189 runs in 4 innings at a strike rate of 161.53 again batting in the middle order. He also took 6 wickets in 4 games before getting injured. So he would not be a bad option if India is looking at a pace-bowling all-rounder. Being a left-handed batter should help his case as well.
The incumbent at number 7 is Jadeja but the all-rounder has played just 2 ODIs in 2022 before this year he found his groove in ODIs in 2019 and 2020 as he had his best years as a batter in ODIs. But his injuries mean that India have had to look at other options. Sundar, Axar Patel and Krunal Pandya have all been tried at the position and all of them had decent numbers to show. But none of these all-rounders have gotten a longer rope. Both Patel and Sundar have played 7 innings each and have done enough to show their potential. So in case, Jadeja is not available then either of these two can make the XI depending on the opposition and the conditions.
India have tried Kuldeep Yadav, Shabaz Ahmed, and Ravi Bishnoi as spinners in ODIs this year. Yuzvendra Chahal more or less is a confirmed starter in the XI, but the question is should he be a sure starter? In the middle overs which is the most critical phase of ODIs, Chahal has been one of India’s most expensive bowlers this year. In 12 innings he has given away runs at 5.31 in overs 11-40, meanwhile, Kuldeep has picked up 11 wickets in 7 innings at an economy of just 4.85 in the same period. The good thing about Kuldeep’s numbers is that his numbers have improved this year while Chahal’s numbers have been pretty similar for the last 4 years.
The other option for India is to try out Rahul Chahar who has an impressive record in List-A record. In 47 List-A games, he has 80 wickets. This year in Vijay Hazare Trophy he picked up 9 wickets in 5 innings at an economy of just 4.34. In the only ODI he played for India last year against Sri Lanka he picked up 3 wickets and bowled really well. He is no mug with the bat either as he showed in the last season of the IPL. He contributed important runs coming down the order for PBKS. Although he is not someone who can hit the ball out of the ground, he can definitely play a supporting role if a batter is playing on the other end.
This is one department where the Indian team has been blessed at this moment. But the issue is that most of the regular pacers have been injured for far too long. Shami, Bumrah, and Prasidh Krishna who have had great outings in ODIs this year have been injured and missed a lot of cricket. If Bumrah and Shami are fit and available they, without doubt, will start in the XI but in case they are not fit India needs to sort out their backups. Shardul has taken the most wickets for the team this year but he has the worst economy for an Indian bowler who has played as many games as him. He has been pressured because of his batting ability but with the WC in India, he could be replaced by a spin-bowling all-rounder if Pandya is fit and available. Siraj has been outstanding in ODIs this year so he should definitely be in the squad. The other options Rohit and co will have are Deepak Chahar, Umran Malik, Arsdheep Singh, and Kuldeep Sen. Out of these 4 bowlers, Sen and Chahar have been injury prone and Arshdeep do not have the best List-A records. Umran Malik in the 5 ODIs he has played has shown enough promise and is the fittest amongst the lot. It won’t be a bad idea to give him as many games as possible and see how turns up.
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Jadeja, RD Chahar, Shami, Bumrah, Siraj, Umran, Kuldeep, Ishnan and Pant.
Sanju Samson has done really well in the limited chances he got in ODIs. So he definitely is one of the options to don the finisher role if Hardik Pandya is not available. Shaw could be in contention as well in the case Rohit Sharma is not available. Yash Dayal was selected for the Bangladesh tour but was ruled out because of an injury. He has a good List-A record and if India is looking for a left-handed bowler then Dayal could be a better option than Arshdeep. Someone like Khaleel Ahmed should also fancy his chances. Avesh Khan might come in contention if Siraj and Shami both are unavailable but right now it seems he has gone out of favour with the team management.
Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Sanju Samson, Venkatesh Iyer, Prasidh Krishna, Yash Dayal, Shaw, Ruturaj.
The Indian team should stick to these players and give them as many opportunities as possible. Right now the team has the likes of Ahmed, Rajat Patidar, Rahul Tripathi etc who have not played much cricket so it would be wise to pick them ahead of the players mentioned above. If India focuses on a group of 20-22 players they would be much better placed than they were ahead of the last 3 world cups including the 2019 WC in England.
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