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India ODI World Cup Squad: Balance, Depth and ‘Good Headache’ Remain Keywords

There were no surprises when chairman of the men’s selection committee Ajit Agarkar announced India’s 15-member squad for the ODI World Cup. From the 18 players (including travelling reserve Sanju Samson) picked for the Asia Cup, Prasidh Krishna, Tilak Varma and Samson failed to make the World Cup cut. The selection committee didn’t tinker with the bowling combination too and both captain Rohit Sharma and Agarkar kept reiterating the balance and depth current players lend to the squad.

“A lot of the guys pick themselves. There were a couple of fitness issues which we had to look at. Fortunately, all three, who had long-term injuries, have come through. All three (Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul) are okay. KL is looking good. Discussions on other names are always there but you try to find the right balance. This squad gives us the best balance and chance to do well in the World Cup,” Agarkar said in a media interaction after the squad announcement in Kandy.

The management is extremely pleased with the progress Rahul made after recovering from injury and the niggle he picked up before the Asia Cup. The right-hander played a couple of 50-over games at the NCA and kept wickets for a long duration too.

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“KL picked up a niggle before the Asia Cup but has now got over it. Played a couple of games and kept for 50 overs. He also batted for almost 50 overs. He is an important player for us and we are happy to have,” Agarkar provided an update on Rahul.

There was lot of chatter about including an off-spinner for the ODI World Cup even when the management didn’t look in that direction for the Asia Cup. With three left-arm spinners, two with similar bowling styles, in the squad, discussions around an off-spinner happened but Agarkar said the current set of bowlers add depth to batting.

“Both Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja are left-arm spinners but both give us depth in batting. Kuldeep takes the ball away. In a 50-over game, we would ideally want an off-spinner but this gives us the best balance. The seamers generally bowl a lot in ODIs as compared to T20 cricket. At the moment we are quite happy with the bowlers we have,” said Agarkar.

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‘Good headache’

In the absence of Rahul, India tried Ishan Kishan in the middle-order vs Pakistan and the young stumper gave an excellent account of his big-match temperament under pressure. The 81-ball 82 was the kind of approach India had missed in the middle-order and him being a left-hander is an added advantage. Before the start of the Asia Cup, there were talks about the bowling combination India would go with but now Ishan and Rahul will be another “good headache” for the management.

“It’s a good headache to have. You rather have that headache to deal with than not. You see KL’s record in ODIs is fantastic so when he comes there will be a conversation. At least you have two options now. Eventually the captain and coach will sit down and decide what is best for the team”

Captain Rohit was on the same page and concurred with Agarkar’s views. The skipper said there is a possibility of playing both Rahul and Kishan together in the middle-order and a call with regards to Playing XI will be taken considering the current form, who the opposition is and how players have fared under pressure in the past.

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“There will be possibility, why not. As long as everyone is available and fit to play, the selection depends on opposition, the current form. Players who have done well under pressure. Those things do matter because it’s just not about getting some scores, how you get those runs is also quite important. Like for Ishan’s confidence, the last game he played was brilliant. Under pressure, batting at No.5 for the first time… left-hander gives us another dimension. All those things are considered before we make our Playing XI. I want everyone to be fit and everyone to be available on that particular day,” said Rohit.

‘Need to create balance and depth’

After a shaky start against Pakistan, India recovered well with the brilliant partnership between Kishan and Hardik Pandya but just couldn’t finish on a high. From 239/5, the Men in Blue collapsed to 266 all out and couldn’t play the full 50 overs. Rohit and the management have already spoken to the bowlers and communicated to them that role with the bat is going to be extremely crucial during the World Cup.

“We need to create both batting and bowling depth. We found this was something which was lacking in the team for last few years, so we just wanted to make sure that we get that batting depth somehow and when you talk about depth of batting, obviously the No.8 and No.9 positions become quite crucial.

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We saw in first game here in Asia Cup also where we felt a little short with the bat at the backend and it shows how important that job is. It’s not just for them to come out and bowl to the opposition but also to contribute with the bat and it can make a huge difference. Like we ended up getting 265. Another 10-15 runs, things could be different and that is the winning and losing margin. We have spoken to the bowlers and communicated how important their role is going to be with the bat as well,” said Rohit.

The captain added that this is the best combination they could have picked as it gives them depth in both batting and bowling.

“We have three all-rounders, four seamers and seven batters. This is how best we could have created the balance. I don’t think we could have done anything extra. We have made best use of resources available for the squad. It gives us depth, spinning options and bowling options. I think this is the best combination for us,” said Rohit.

India’s World Cup squad: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj

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