Virat Kohli may have just dropped the most clear hint yet regarding the make-up of India’s squad – and playing XI – for the upcoming ICC World Cup 2019 in England.
It has been the subject of raging debate across the country – what is India’s best combination for the mega-event in the United Kingdom from 30 May to 14 July?
And the Indian skipper, while declaring the team for the series-deciding fifth ODI against Australia at New Delhi on Wednesday, 13 March, gave the most obvious indication yet.
“The combination we’re going to play today, more or less, is similar to what we are probably going to play in the World Cup and find that balance in the team,” Kohli said about the XI picked for India’s final international game before the 2019 World Cup.
5 Bowlers, Shankar at 4: India’s Best XI?
So what is this ‘most balanced’ XI? Hear it in Kohli’s own words.
"“Chahal misses out, Jadeja comes in as the all-rounder. KL Rahul misses out and Shami has been added as the extra bowling option, just to give us flexibility with the ball, and then we bat till eight as well with Bhuvi down the order.”" - Virat Kohli
To spell out the changes, India went in with one lesser ‘full’ batting option by removing KL Rahul from the team, but increased the bowling options in the unit by bringing Mohammed Shami in for him.
To add some sort of batting cover, Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round game was preferred to the leg-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal.
It’s a clear indication from the think-tank that they will need five specialist bowlers in their XI for the World Cup – or four plus three all-round options, assuming Hardik Pandya remains the preferred choice at number seven if fit.
To Return: Dhoni Surely, Plus Pandya?
The obvious factor to remember is that MS Dhoni, quite obviously, slots back into the XI come the World Cup. The 37-year-old was rested for the final two games against Australia, allowing the team to give Rishabh Pant a run to contest for the back-up ‘keeper’s slot in the eventual 15-man unit.
Pandya, too, was not risked for the five-match series owing to “lower back stiffness”, and remains a shoo-in for the World Cup.
Keeping that in consideration, what is this ideal XI Kohli is alluding to?
India’s ‘Most Balanced’ World Cup XI?
- Rohit Sharma
- Shikhar Dhawan
- Virat Kohli (c)
- Vijay Shankar
- MS Dhoni (wk)
- Kedar Jadhav
- Hardik Pandya/Ravindra Jadeja
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar
- Kuldeep Yadav
- Mohammed Shami
- Jasprit Bumrah
What that means for Ambati Rayudu, who appeared to have closed in on the much-debated number four spot but was consigned to the bench for the final two matches, remains to be seen.
The same holds true for the likes of Rahul and Pant, who might now be fighting for a solitary spot in the XV – or two positions, with Dinesh Karthik also in the mix.
India might have made their final appearance on the field before the World Cup, but the month-and-a-bit until 23 April – the deadline to name the 15-man squad for the trip to England – promises to be a bit of a humdinger.
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