World Cup '23: Players To Invest In

India's Jasprit (L) Bumrah celebrates with captain Virat Kohli during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between West Indies and India at Old Trafford in Manchester, on June 27, 2019. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

England may have collected the silverware through the back door, but there is one aspect of their cricket that India would do well to imbibe. And that is to start preparing for the next edition of the marquee event right away.

The BCCI has already initiated the process by seeking fresh applications for the support staff and it would be a good idea for the new selection panel to earmark players who could take up the positions that may fall vacant due to age or lack of form or both as we head into the World Cup on home conditions in 2023.

Of the current lot, it is safe to say that Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah aren’t going anywhere and therefore would form the fulcrum of the team. The rest of the 15 members may require that something extra to remain relevant. And, it’s not just about age as there would be several players offering a challenge to their positions in the team.

Both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma will be in their mid-thirties, and could face a stiff challenge from younger players like Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal, both of whom should be invested in with a long-term outlook. Shaw looked fluent on his Test debut as did Agarwal, who scored two seventy-plus scores on debut against Australia in their backyard.

With Kohli holding the fort at number three, it would be ideal to have a grafter with good hitting abilities at number four, a position that was advertised two years before this World Cup but ended up as the Achilles’ Heel that coach Ravi Shastri conceded in the final analysis. Shreyas Iyer has both the shots and the attitude to make it count, but he may have to tighten his defense a bit through sustained preparation to make that slot his own.

With Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik pretty much reaching the end of their respective roads, India has the option of trying out Manish Pandey at number five for a consistent period, with Shubman Gill queueing up to display his skills at any point in time. In fact, this duo should be given clear roles in the ODI set-up and asked to showcase their talent.

With the MS Dhoni era clearly set to end before 2023, the next two slots should be automatic choices for Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya. At this point in time, they’re like stocks that have the potential of long-term high returns; they should work with good batting consultants who can iron out their temperament as there’s hardly anything wrong with their techniques.

With Rahul Dravid at the helm in the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, Pant and Pandya (and everyone else) would benefit immensely from spending time at Indian cricket’s cradle of excellence.

Ironically, the bugbear of India’s cricket in the past is unlikely to raise its head in the next four years, given that our bowlers definitely outshone our batsmen in this World Cup. However, the team management would be wise to have like-to-like replacements for each of them, just in case any unforeseen event plays out in the run-up to the tournament.

The likes of Khaleel Ahmed, Shivam Mavi, Navdeep Saini and Kamlesh Nagarkoti (the latter two are currently battling injuries) should be standing by in the pace department; all they have to do is imbibe Bumrah’s consistency, created through an uncanny ability to out-think batsmen. While Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami have done enough to go into the next tournament, the new speedsters would help add to the pace cupboard.

The spin department is what the thinktank should be looking at closely. After investing heavily in the Kul-Cha pair, India were forced to bring in Ravindra Jadeja for the last couple of games, because the wrist-spinners failed on two counts– they didn’t pick wickets in PowerPlay-2 and leaked close to six runs an over.

With India being the venue next time, the pitches would be ideal for Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav to once again mesmerize batsmen. However, India would do well to stock up, with the likes of Shreyas Gopal and Mayank Markande, the former also being a more than handy bat at number eight.

Of course, there could be a few more players making the cut over the next 12-24 months, thanks to India’s experiments with the Under-19 and India-A formats.

What is required though is greater role clarity and selectorial stability when it comes to giving chances- potential needs to be mapped to performance over a specific time frame.

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