The words of a Captain words are like a window to peep into the team's thought process. If one wants to have an idea about what the team is thinking, then you must hear want the captain says. If the captain is Virat Kohli, then understanding the team management's thinking is very as he is quite frank in his interviews.
At the toss in India's last ODI before the World Cup, the Indian captain stated that they are playing with the same combination they will use in the big event. That was a big statement to make as both KL Rahul and Ambati Rayadu did feature. Intrestingly, India played that game with three pacers and Ravidnra Jadeja as the genuine all-rounder.
So, let's look at what that comment by Kohli might mean for India going in the World Cup
What could India's World Cup combination look like ?
Along with the five bowlers, India also fielded Vijay Shankar which means; he is being looked at like a proper batsman. In the opportunities he has got, he has hardly failed to impress. Ambati Rayadu's poor form and inconsistency to rotate the strike might have prompted the team to think about Shankar as a viable option for number four. He is technically sound and can rotate the strike with ease as he showed in his partnership with Kohli in Nagpur. For these reasons, he is a perfect fit for that positon.
The only thing that works against Shankar is inexperience. In Ranchi and Delhi, he had the chance to win India the game but his lack of experience showed as he perished playing big shot after having already cleared the boundary on one occasion. While, he will surely learn, will India take him to the World Cup is something only time will . However, it looks like hiis performances have already sealed his place and he could find himself in the middle order for India's opening game in England.
After playing at Number three in the last match, Rahul warmed the benches in the last ODI. It is a clear indication that he will be going into the tournament only as a back-up opener and the team are not confident about having him in the middle order.
Ambati Rayadu is something whose fortunes have clearly changed in this series. It looked like, he was among the players who are sure to make the squad for the mega event but his place in the side is now under massive scrutiny. His inconsistent performances have put his place at number four in doubt. Now with Shankar in the mix, questions are being raised on whether he will board the plane to England. However, with the tournament so close, it is hard to see Rayudu being dropped as his experience is still important.
Which places are up for grabs ?
The first place is that of a back-up keeper as age is not on Dhoni's side and you don't want to risk going into such a long tournament without a replacement. There is a tossup between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik and it looks like Pant will win the race as he was in the squad against Australia. In required, he can play as a pure batsman in the middle order.
This means that only two among Rayadu, Shankar, and Ravindra Jadeja can be in the squad. That makes the case pretty interesting. Shankar with his added utility with the bowl makes a very strong case.
A lot depends on how the team views Shankar, as an all-rounder or as a batsman. If he gets selected as the former, then selectors can select Rayadu and Jadeja misses out. However, India's line-up in the last game might mean curtains to Rayadu's hopes in the World Cup. Shankar played the 5th ODI as a pure batsman and Jadeja played ahead of Chahal and took the position of the team's all-rounder.
Even though Jadeja hasn't been impressive but his all-round ability and experience could give him the cut. Moreover, India's strength is their spin-bowling, especially in the middle overs. Yuzvendra Chahal hasn't been in the best of forms and for such a long tournament, the team will need a back-up. Hence, the left-armer should take the 3rd spinner's slot.
There is still slim hope for Rayadu. As Pant could not take his chance, his position is still in doubt. If India thinks Rahul can keep wickets if needed, like he does in the IPL, then Rayadu can come in place of Pant. But it looks highly unlikely that this will happen. Despite being constant in the team for six months, the 34 year-old hopes of going to the World Cup are at the brink of breaking as things look at the present.
India probable squad for the WC:-
Rohit Shamra, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Kedhar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jaspirt Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant.