New Delhi, Sep 7: After India announced its 15-member squad for the Men’s ODI World Cup on Tuesday, selected largely on expected lines, a few talking points emerged – like who will be the first-choice wicketkeeper-batter, how Suryakumar Yadav made the cut and the absence of an off-spinner plus leg-spinner.
With KL Rahul deemed fit enough to be included in the World Cup squad, it means India must decide between him and Ishan Kishan, who brings in a left-handed batting variety, for the wicketkeeper-batter slot.
Since January 2020, Rahul averages 56.53, but Kishan is on a run of four consecutive fifties, last of which was a sublime 82 under pressure against Pakistan at number five, a place he never batted before.
Surendra Bhave, who was a member of the selection committee that picked the 2011 World Cup winning India squad, feels Kishan is the front-runner for the wicketkeeper-batter slot, citing his current form and fitness.
“I am particularly happy with how he played against Pakistan, it was an outstanding display after losing four quick wickets. He and Hardik Pandya were just out of this world and very outstanding against a very deadly bowling attack.”
“The form is in the right place for Ishan Kishan and there’s no doubt about his keeping abilities and is fully fit. First preference will be there for Ishan Kishan and from there, they will take it,” he said in a conversation with IANS.
Suryakumar has been in India’s ODI set-up for well over a year, but his maverick batting style in T20s hasn’t given spectacular results in the 50-over format, with his average standing at 24.33. Bhave feels Suryakumar has been undoubtedly picked for the World Cup based on his calibre and class.
“Exactly a year ago, everybody was saying that he’s a 360-degree player and was called as best thing to have happened to Indian cricket in a while. The guy is not in form and all of us know that. But personally, I am a big fan of Suryakumar Yadav and in a matter of one-two innings, he can turn it around as he’s that good a player.”
“He’s slightly short of form, but if you look at his selection, you can make out that they have gone for the calibre and sheer class of the player. On a given day in a 50-over match, they know how destructive he can be and can win you games hands down when he’s batting well. The support staff will be working very hard with Suryakumar to remove all the obstacles and have him perform better.”
Chief selector Ajit Agarkar did say having an off-spinner or a leg-spinner was in discussion, but the punt was never taken to include them as left-arm spin trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel were the chosen ones.
Bhave felt what if ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin would be required at any point of time in Indian conditions during the World Cup, but acknowledged that he and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal missed out as the side needs to pick its best 15 players for the showpiece event.
“Overall, they have covered most bases. But at the same time, I feel in Indian conditions, would we need Ashwin at any point in time? That’s something which I would have also contemplated on. Ideally, you can pick only 15 players and Chahal has been mighty impressive in many years.”
“It’s unlucky that he’s missing out on his second ICC tournament (after the 2021 T20 World Cup). It’s a numbers game and you have to put out your best 15, followed by the captain and coaches trying to put out the best playing eleven. So, Chahal and Ashwin are world-class bowlers, but maybe the selection committee was thinking slightly differently.”
“They know what’s being planned out for this World Cup. But think of it, who would you remove from your 15 to fit Chahal and Ashwin? As if you pick these two, then you have five genuine spin options. But I don’t think we will play on any turners and don’t see this happening in the World Cup, as I believe teams will get good one-day pitches to bat upon.”
The same spoilt for choice logic applies for non-selection of pacer Prasidh Krishna, who brings in the high speeds and hit-the-deck option in middle overs. “With the fast-bowling spots in the team, you cannot doubt anyone. So, Prasidh is unlucky in that way and he’s got to wait for his time. He will have more opportunities to play World Cups.”
“Till then, he can hone his skills as he’s a very good bowler and bowls pretty quick, so time is on his side. But they have gone for class and experience, as all those three quick bowlers (Bumrah, Shami and Siraj) have been outstanding for the last three-four years.”
Kuldeep’s ability to turn the ball both ways and his recent form being great will help India’s cause of taking wickets in middle overs. But Bhave wants the wrist-spinner to hold his own if he faces a tough situation in the World Cup.
“Also, I want to say in a positive, not in a negative way, but I hope that if Kuldeep plays in a pressure situation, he is able to hold his own because it’s going to be crucial when people (look to) attack small boundaries and you have to show that temperament.”
“Because he’s slightly slower in the air than others, his challenge would be that the batters would be targeting him to hit sixes and score briskly. That is where he will need to show his temperament. Also, fielding is going to be very crucial in a World Cup and India need to present themselves as an outstanding fielding unit.”
Of late, batting depth has been the standout buzzword in India’s ODI selections, making the contributions from all-rounders like Hardik, Jadeja, Axar and Shardul Thakur gaining huge importance. Bhave signed off by saying batting depth can never go waste in ODIs, which can benefit the team as the game needs players with multiple skills.
“In a World Cup match, it’s a 300-ball game per inning and you do need depth in batting order. In a scenario, for any given reason, you are 30-3 or 50-3, and if you see what Ishan and Hardik did against Pakistan, you do need that depth. Then, you need to kick on after 40 overs, and get a sizeable total on the board.”
“If you just apply simple logic, there is 120 ball inning in T20s and 300 ball inning in ODIs, so you need batting depth. When you see the playing eleven for the first match, you will see there’s a lot of batting depth. It’s a plus, like you can contribute in both departments, plus field well.”