Talking points from India's 2019 World Cup squad announcement

Sahil Jain

India became the third team after NZ and Australia to submit their list

The 2019 World Cup is around the corner and expectedly the buzz surrounding it has been massive. Teams have started to announce their 15-man squads and New Zealand were the first to do it. Australia too announced their squad earlier today.

Last week, it was announced that the two-time champions India would reveal their squad today and the wait is finally over as India’s squad for the 2019 World Cup is out. The selectors did not take long to announce the 15-member squad and it was more or less on the expected lines.

Most the squad picked itself and barring a couple of spots, there wasn’t a lot of debate either. Hence, let’s take a look back at the talking points from India’s World Cup squad selection.

Vijay Shankar to start off as No. 4 as Ambati Rayudu faces axe

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India’s No. 4 in the ODI team had nearly become a national debate. Since the start of 2017, as many as 11 players were tried at that spot. Ambati Rayudu was the only player to have gotten an extended rope. He played 14 innings at that spot, scoring 464 runs at an average of 42.18 which included a couple of fifties and a hundred.

Dinesh Karthik and Yuvraj Singh were other players to get a decent run (nine innings each). Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and MS Dhoni are the other notable ones who had a shot at the coveted No. 4 spot.

However, the selectors have decided to name a new man for the role and it is Vijay Shankar. The Tamil Nadu all-rounder has moved up the pecking order in the last few months. Hardik Pandya’s injury came as a blessing in disguise for him as he was drafted into the squad. He showed some good temperament on a couple of instances when India were under pressure in New Zealand and in the series at home against Australia. Moreover, he can chip in with the ball and is a live-wire in the field as well. Hence, his ability to contribute in all three departments tilted the balance in his favour.

As far as Rayudu is concerned, he had the backing of skipper Virat Kohli in the West Indies series in October last year. However, his form has been pretty patchy in the last few months. He tends to struggle against pace and has failed to up the ante as well at times. His struggles in the ongoing IPL might’ve also gone against him.

After the Champions Trophy (2017), we tried quite a few people in that position. We did give a few more chances to Rayudu. Vijay Shankar is three dimensional. We are looking at him at no. 4 to begin with. We also have Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav. It's not that anything that went against (Rayudu), it's that a few things went for Shankar,” MSK Prasad said in the press conference post the selection meeting. 

Dinesh Karthik over Rishabh Pant for second wicket-keeper's slot

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This was one of the biggest debate surrounding India’s World Cup squad. Who would go in as the second wicket-keeper, the experienced Dinesh Karthik or the young, fearless Rishabh Pant? Well, the selectors have opted to back experience for the big tournament. It is also Karthik’s ability with the gloves that saw him get the nod ahead of India’s first-choice Test wicket-keeper. MSK Prasad also justified the reason for India opting for the Tamil Nadu stumper over Pant.

Definitely a case where we debated (at) length. We all (agreed) that either Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik will come in only when (Dhoni) is injured. In an important game, wicket keeping is also important. That's the reason we went with Dinesh Karthik,” chief selector MSK Prasad was quoted saying in the press conference.

Dinesh Karthik has been in and out of the ODI side for a while now. He has also batted at the No. 4 spot. However, Rishabh Pant was picked in the series against Australia. However, he has played as a wicket-keeper in just two out of the five ODIs he’s played. Moreover, he hasn’t really taken ODI cricket by storm. Hence, the selectors went for the superior keeper in Karthik.

KL Rahul is the reserve opener

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There are no surprises in KL Rahul being picked as the third opener. He’s had a tough few months but has come back strongly. He was struggling in red-ball cricket and also lost his place for a Test match in Australia. However, he didn’t get a lot of chances in the limited-overs formats. He played as India’s No. 4 in England last year for a couple of games before he went back to warm the benches.

However, he had a good run in the short T20I series against Australia in late February and his current IPL form has also been brilliant. Hence, he slots in as the reserve opener. In fact, he can double up as a backup middle-order batsman too if the need arises. He has done it in the past, though he hasn’t been successful he can do the job as well.

“To begin with KL (Rahul) will be reserve opener, if the need arises the team management will take a call,” MSK Prasad was quoted saying when he was quizzed on Rahul’s inclusion.

Only three specialist fast bowlers, Jadeja the additional all-rounder

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There are no surprises in India’s fast bowling department. Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami pick themselves. However, the debate was whether they needed an extra pacer, keeping the length of the tournament and the injury history of Shami and Bhuvneshwar in mind.

The selectors have resisted that temptation of naming an extra pacer and have gone in with the all-round ability of Ravindra Jadeja who will also be the third spinner in the squad. He can lend some solid batting down the order as well. He was out of the scheme of things as far as white-ball cricket was concerned for a while. However, Hardik Pandya's injury paved a way for his return during the Asia Cup in September last year and he hasn't looked back since. He has done well with the ball and his ability in the field is second to none. Hence, he gets the nod as well.

Chief selector MSK Prasad also revealed that four additional fast bowlers will be travelling with the 15-member squad.