Patriot takes a critical look at the squad that will represent India in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup and aim for a third trophy for the country
On April 15, chief selector MSK Prasad announced the 15-member India squad that will be travelling to England to challenge for the cup. Considered one of the favourites to win the tournament, does the final 15 look like the team to beat, especially in English conditions? Here is our take on it.
The No. 4 riddle
Who will bat at No. 4? This has been the raging question over the last couple of years. Selectors have chosen Vijay Shankar as the ideal candidate for the spot, for his ‘three-dimensional abilities’, according to selector MSK Prasad, referring to his ability to bowl and his fielding capabilities.
But considering Ambati Rayudu’s phenomenal performance in the recently concluded series in New Zealand, wherein he was the highest rungetter in the series, he should have been in the squad. His exclusion is the biggest surprise, as he was the ideal man for that no. 4 spot.
We believe MS Dhoni should bat at no. 4, with Kedhar Jadhav at 5 and either Dinesh Karthik or Vijay Shankar at No. 6. This will give Dhoni time to play, as he slowly builds his innings for an explosive finish.
Solid opening combo
India’s opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are now probably the most stable and most dependable in all of world cricket. Statistics-wise, they are the best opening combination in the current era, scoring 4,541 runs in 101 innings with an average of over 45. Overall, they are the fourth most successful opening pair in history and the second most successful one in Indian history after the Sachin-Sourav combo.
In ICC tournaments, their average goes up to a whopping 66.4 runs per innings, whereas in England their average is a high 64.
Individually too, the two have been in excellent form in the 2018 cricketing calendar year. While Sharma was the second highest run-getter of 2018 with 1,030 runs, Dhawan stood sixth on the list with 897 runs. Dhawan, has also been in sensational form for the Delhi Capitals in the ongoing IPL.
The backup opener that India has is KL Rahul, who after his whole Koffee with Karan fiasco, has set the IPL ablaze as he is currently the highest scorer for his Kings XI Punjab side.
The 2019 ICC World Cup is perhaps the biggest challenge for India’s captain Virat Kohli. His batting capabilities have never been in doubt. In 2018, he was the leading run scorer in the world, scoring 1,202 runs at a superhuman average of 133.5. He played the least number of matches but was among the top 10 run scorers. There’s a saying in cricket that the best batsman should be sent in at No. 3, and there is no one better suited to play there for India than Kohli himself.
But it is Kohli’s leadership qualities that are being questioned, especially after his dismal performance with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. His fielding placements, his bowling changes have all been questioned.
Still, one must not forget that Kohli has an incredible win percentage of 73.88 as India’s ODI captain, and it was under him that the men in blue conquered the likes of South Africa and West Indies at their home turf. So, winning this World Cup will definitely end all debates surrounding Kohli’s leadership abilities.
The ever dependable
In a recent interview. Virat Kohli said that India was lucky to have MS Dhoni behind the stumps. With a staggering career record of 10,500 runs from 340+ games, Dhoni is definitely the No. 1 choice for wicketkeeper-batsman in the Indian squad.
However, detractors say that at 38 years, age is slowly catching up with the 2011 World Cup winning captain, and he is no more the finisher he once was. He did have a slight dip of form in recent years, but his Man of the Series performance in the ODI series vs Australia proved that Dhoni still can cause nightmares among the opposition. In the ongoing IPL, he has been absolutely sensational with the bat for the Chennai Super Kings. He is automatically the No. 1 choice for the keeper-batsman role.
Even behind the stumps, Dhoni has been involved in 29 dismissals in 2018, the third most by any keeper during the calendar year. Even at this age, he is still the best wicketkeeper in the country.
As his backup, India has another experienced campaigner in the form of Dinesh Karthik. Rishab Pant was another one who was the hot favourite to get into the squad, especially after his explosive IPL form, but according to MSK Prasad, Karthik made the cut, because he is technically the better keeper. But the chief selector also said that Karthik will only be added in the squad if Dhoni is injured or unwell.
All rounders galore
What this India squad has, that others lacked, is the presence of genuine all-rounders. The name that immediately makes the cut into the playing 11 is obviously Hardik Pandya. He acts as the third seamer for the team, and also comes in at No. 7 to tonk a few balls over the boundary and accelerate the scoring rate. His seam bowling however will prove helpful especially in English conditions where the ball tends to nip in the air.
Ravindra Jadeja is also there in the squad, and can come in the absence of Pandya. He can also come in if India needs three spinners on a low slow wicket, especially considering the chances of rain in English conditions.
Vijay Shankar, with his medium pacers, and Kedar Jadhav with his part-time spin bowling too can chip in with a few overs here and there.
Lethal pace battery
If you want to win a tournament in England, you need to have a good pace attack that can take full advantage of the green English pitches. The overcast conditions too make the ball swing in both directions, and India has bowlers who can do all that. Jasprit Bumrah is currently the number one ODI bowler in the world in the ICC rankings. There is no better death bowler in the world than Bumrah. When the batsman tends to hit the ball, Bumrah comes in and checks the run rate, with an economy rate of 3.64 per over. He also has the ability to bowl perfect yorkers at the correct time.
The other two genuine pacers are both effective in their own right. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar has the ability to swing the ball both ways, Mohammad Shami has rejuvenated himself after a rather controversial year, with his lethal pace. A good selection to have for the management, Kohli can play any one of the two seamers as the second pace option.
India’s two wrist spinners are arguably the best limited overs spin duo in the world at the moment. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav rank 8th and 7th in the ICC bowling rankings respectively in ODIs.
The best thing is that they add variety to the bowling attack. While Chahal is your conventional leg spinner who can bowl those leg spinners and googlies, Kuldeep, with his left arm chinaman bowling, adds the element of unorthodoxy with his wrong-ones.
The two have picked up a total of 74 wickets between them in 2018, and have certainly proved themselves as the replacement for the Jadeja- Ashwin duo.
The Ideal XI
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami/ Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal,