India is finally done with all its international games before the World Cup. The season didn’t end well as India lost its first home series under Virat Kohli’s captaincy to the Aaron Finch-led Australia. The players will now head to their respective franchises for the gala event IPL and regroup directly before the World Cup. India plays its first game against South Africa on the 30th of May at the Rose Bowl in Southampton.
While many spots have been finalized as far as the playing XI is concerned, few spots are still in contention and the team management hasn’t yet finalized on all the 15 players that would tour England later this year. After the series loss against Australia, many questions have still been left unanswered which the team was looking to answer over the past year and a half. Most of the spots are certain. The top 3 along with finishers in MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, and the bowling department is almost decided. However, there are still some places in the 15 up for grabs.
We will look at the remaining players whose place is still uncertain and the upcoming IPL season will play a huge role in determining their selections for the World Cup, no matter how unfortunate that sounds.
#1 Ambati Rayudu
Ambati Thirupathi Rayudu had a great beginning to the season, having satisfactory outings against the West Indies. He even had a reasonable time in the Asia Cup. In the last two seasons, India’s top 3 have scored a whopping 20 hundreds, while the rest of squad have 1 century among them, combined. The century came from the willow of Rayudu against the Windies at home.
Just when Virat Kohli and the team management felt that their middle order conundrum was resolved, it has come back to haunt them again. Barring a 90 in NewZealand, Rayudu has been inconsistent with the bat in the last two tours. He scored a mere 33 runs at an abysmal average of 11 and a strike rate of 55 against Australia.
He has failed to read line and lengths and has a definitive weakness against pace. Considering England and pace bowling, his place could still be under question and Rayudu has to have a decent IPL to assure the selectors that he is in good form.
#2 KL Rahul
KL Rahul has been in and out of the squad for quite some time now and managed to play only one game in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia. Rahul has always been looked as the third opener in the squad after the Karnataka batsman failed at number 4 in the limited opportunities that he got.
Rahul’s form in the Test format is also a concern and he had a poor 2018 in Tests. The Karnataka batsman also failed to impress in the ODIs whenever he played. Though a third opener is undoubtedly required in the World Cup squad, one cannot say with certainty that Rahul is going to make it to the final list.
The upcoming IPL will be crucial for Rahul and if he has a below-par season, the selectors could even think of alternate options or even discard the third opener spot and add a fourth seamer. Fans will hope Rahul finds his form back and is amongst the runs like he was in the last season. Rahul was the third highest scorer in the tournament and the highest scorer for the Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2018.
#3 Rishabh Pant
The one person everybody expected to have an impact in the recent ODIs was Rishabh Pant. However, Pant has failed to make his presence felt. He had an ordinary outing in the opportunities he has got so far in the limited overs format. Pant even had a tough time behind the stumps, opening an opportunity for some like Dinesh Karthik as a back-up option to the first choice MS Dhoni.
After the Australia series, it would be very difficult to accommodate Pant in the World Cup squad. However, he can be selected based on how he fares in the IPL and how others fare in comparison to him. IPL will be interesting to watch for these vacant World Cup spots. It will be hoped that Pant has a productive IPL like last year when he was the highest Indian run-getter. He was only 51 runs behind the Orange Cap holder Kane Williamson, playing one game fewer than the Kiwi captain.
#4 Dinesh Karthik
Dropped from the home series against Australia, Dinesh Karthik could still make it to the World Squad, courtesy no impactful performances from Pant and Rayudu. The Tamil Nadu batsman has really worked hard on his game over the past couple of years. He has taken India to safe shores on quite a few occasions.
Considering Karthik’s finishing abilities, he can still be a good fit for the World Cup. To add to it, he can be a good back up to MS Dhoni in the wicket-keeping department. DK is a decent wicketkeeper and considering Pant’s failure in New Zealand and Australia, the selectors might want to invest in a safe bet like Karthik for an event like the World Cup.
His performances in the upcoming IPL will be carefully looked at and if he has a decent season, one won’t be surprised if he is on the flight to London.
#5 Vijay Shankar
Vijay Shankar has had a great time so far. He is technically a sound batsman and has performed decently in the opportunities that were presented to him. He could well be accommodated at number 4, ahead of Rayudu or Pant. The move will even give Virat Kohli more stability as he will have up to 7 bowling options.
Shankar played meaningful knocks in New Zealand and Australia, both coming at critical stages of the game. He even bowled India to victory in the 2nd ODI against Australia in Nagpur, defending 11 runs from the final over by picking up two wickets. Though Shankar’s bowling isn’t as effective as Hardik Pandya's, he could be a good backup option in the side.
Shankar failed in the final ODI against Australia and one will be curious to see if the selectors still stick with him the moment Pandya is back. Shankar’s boarding pass to London depends on the various combinations the team management is aspiring for.
It will depend on whether they want to add a proper batsman in the middle order or go for a fourth pace option in someone like Umesh Yadav. April 23 is tentatively the cutoff date for the teams to submit their squad and it will be interesting to see if Shankar is in the scheme of things for the crucial World Cup
#6 Ravindra Jadeja/Umesh Yadav
Ravindra Jadeja will most certainly be a part of India’s World Cup campaign, having performed well in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia. Jadeja is a great asset to the team in all three departments. With Yuzvendra Chahal not being the same force as before, Jadeja could well play ahead of him in England.
However, the only way he might miss out on the flight to England is if India decides to go in with a fourth seamer, such as Umesh Yadav. The former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly didn't have Jadeja in his World Cup squad and included Yadav as a fourth bowling option.
“Ravindra Jadeja should not be in the World Cup team. Vijay Shankar bowled beautifully in the Nagpur match. I think Vijay deserves his World Cup spot,” cited the former India Captain.
It would be interesting to witness if the team management decides in a similar manner, considering the nature of the pitches and conditions in England. It will be unfortunate if Jadeja misses out.
In conclusion, all questions on selections will be answered by the end of April. Few selections will be made on T20 form for the World Cup and fans will be keenly watching at the performances of the above seven players as only three or four of them will make it to the final squad that will tour England.