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Dearth of Left-Handers May Assure ‘X-Factor’ Rishabh Pant World Cup Ticket

Devadyuti Das | Updated: April 15, 2019, 8:41 AM IST
Dearth of Left-Handers May Assure ‘X-Factor’ Rishabh Pant World Cup Ticket

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It is the most-awaited team selection in recent memory and the reason is simple — the 15 players named will attempt to win India the World Cup for the third time in history after 1983 and 2011. Unlike recent editions, practice of announcing a 30-member squad and pruning it down to 15 has been dispensed with, in accordance with Member Participation Agreement (MPA) of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The five national selectors led by chairman and former India wicketkeeper MSK Prasad will announce the final squad in Mumbai on Monday.

The majority of the Indian squad picks itself, having consistently represented the country in the 50-over format in the last two years, after their loss in the 2017 Champions Trophy final. In fact, the XI for India’s first two World Cup games, against South Africa (June 5) and Australia (June 9), looks set on paper — 1. Rohit Sharma, 2. Shikhar Dhawan, 3. Virat Kohli, 4. MS Dhoni, 5. Kedar Jadhav, 6. Hardik Pandya, 7. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 8. Yuzvendra Chahal, 9. Kuldeep Yadav, 10. Mohammed Shami and 11. Jasprit Bumrah

There are, however, a couple of spots to be nailed down and the likes of KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja will be among those whose contention will be debated at the meeting.

Rahul might not have a lot of ODI experience under his belt but a solid technique, centuries in Tests in Australia and England and the backing of the team management work in his favour. Rahul and Pandya’s comments on the TV show ‘Koffee with Karan’ put a question mark over their World Cup participation but both served out five-match suspensions and are very much part of the team set-up now.

Delhi wicket-keeper batsman Pant might just be the X-factor that his skipper Kohli and team needs in a tournament of this magnitude. Pant has shown his skills at the Test level although his returns in ODIs and T20s have been inconsistent so far.

The selectors believe they might require a left-hander in the middle-order to tackle the slew of leg-spinners like Adam Zampa, Adil Rashid, Imran Tahir, Ish Sodhi, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman that India might face in the World Cup.

“We believe Pant has the ability to be a match-winner in ODIs as well. After Dhawan, there is no left-hander in the batting line-up and Pant can fulfill that role in the middle-order to tackle leg-spinners that we might face,” sources close to the team management informed CricketNext.

“Also, it is a long tournament, the team will need a backup wicketkeeper for Dhoni over the course of nine games. Rahul can step into that role but Pant is a specialist. It will be interesting which way the selectors swing,” the source added.

The No. 4 position was an area of huge debate in the lead up to the World Cup but Rayudu has been most consistent batsman in that spot, barring his recent form in the ODI series against Australia. In 15 games at that position since June 2017, Rayudu averages 42.18 with 464 runs and a strike-rate of 85.60. Dinesh Karthik was the other batsman tried for nine games in the position but his strike-rate was only 71, which has pushed him back in the pecking order in comparison to Pant.

With Rahul and Pant options for the Indian middle-order, Rayudu is likely to be the one to miss out. It will come down to Pant vs Karthik for the second wicketkeeper’s berth and selectors will have to figure out who they consider the better finisher of the two, with Dhoni clearly not the same force as before in that department.

Vijay and Jadeja slip into the 15 as the two all-rounders — one giving India the option of a seam bowler in English conditions and the latter is an asset due to his fielding and left-arm spin.

“Vijay has impressed the selectors with his performances since India’s ODI series in New Zealand. He can bat up the order as well and has good technique to handle the moving ball in England. He is more of a batsman all-rounder but if the selectors opt for a fourth seamer like Umesh Yadav or Khaleel Ahmed, he might be the one to miss out,” the source added.

Vijay Shankar in action. (Image: Twitter) Vijay Shankar in action. (Image: Twitter)

The frontline pace attack of Bumrah, Shami and Bhuvneshwar are all certainties based on their performances in the last couple of years. It’s unlikely that the national selectors will look at a fourth seamer if Pandya and Shankar can fulfil that role. Jadeja gives the option of a defensive bowler in most conditions and a wicket-taking options if the conditions are dry and hot as predicted in England.

The team management is expected to send three other fast bowlers outside of the 15 to help out in training over the course of the World Cup. The likes of Yadav, Navdeep Saini and possibly Ahmed might be asked to fill that role.

Possible Final 15:

The Certainties: 1. Rohit Sharma, 2. Shikhar Dhawan, 3. Virat Kohli (Captain), 4. MS Dhoni (Wicketkeeper), 5. Kedar Jadhav, 6. Hardik Pandya, 7. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 8. Yuzvendra Chahal, 9. Kuldeep Yadav, 10. Mohammed Shami, 11. Jasprit Bumrah,

Up for debate: 12. KL Rahul vs Ambati Rayudu, 13. Rishabh Pant vs Dinesh Karthik, 14. Vijay Shankar and 15. Ravindra Jadeja vs Umesh Yadav/ Navdeep Saini
First Published: April 14, 2019, 4:13 PM IST
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