The five wise men of Indian cricket, led by M.S.K. Prasad, will meet in Mumbai on Monday to pick the squad for the 2019 World Cup in England. While most of the players pick themselves, thanks to their consistent show in recent times, there are three main areas of concern that the selectors need to take a call on when they sit down to pick the 15-member squad.
The much-debated number four slot, whether Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik go as the second wicket-keeper behind MS Dhoni and finally, if the team will pick a fourth pacer or an additional third spinner considering that the wickets will be on the slower side at this time of the year in England.
Starting with the number four slot, while there have been talks ranging from Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer, it could well be that the team management will continue with the recent experiment of playing Vijay Shankar at the number four slot with Rahul being drafted as the official back-up opener as well as the answer to all the other top-order batting slots if and when any of the other batsman in the top line-up is injured or out of form.
Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar has also spoken about how Rahul can fit into any position in the batting order considering he is an opener and that his IPL form is something that cannot be ignored. Interestingly, former India opener Gautam Gambhir has also proposed the name of Sanju Samson. But the Kerala and Rajasthan Royals batsman has just not been consistent enough.
With the team management making it clear after the Nidahas Trophy that Rahul will be seen primarily as the third opener, he will only walk into the team as the back-up opener and not as a number four batsman. The fact that Shankar has continued to bat at number three or four in this Indian Premier League (IPL) for the Sunrisers Hyderabad is another hint that the team management might have asked him to carry on batting at the top.
While he told IANS on Friday that the move in the IPL wasn’t aimed at sealing the number four spot in the showpiece event, he does look like one of the favourites to seal the much-debated spot in Indian cricket at present.
What this also means is that the likes of Shreyas Iyer or Ajinkya Rahane will be out of the equation. While Iyer has been scoring heavily without the selectors acknowledging his efforts, Rahane has somehow failed to get the backing of the selectors even though he has proved himself whenever given an opportunity. In fact, he was a hit in the middle-order in the last ODI series that he played against South Africa.
The rest of the batsmen pick themselves with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma starting at the top, followed by Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav. Hardik Pandya fits in as the all-rounder who will also be looked at as a finisher.
Now the dilemma of the second wicket-keeper. This is another position that the selectors need to solve. They need to decide whether to pick Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant. While Pant the batsman is seen to have the X-factor that is needed to provide the push going into the later stages of the game, Karthik is considered a more experienced campaigner and one who would be able to keep calm on the big stage like the World Cup.
Who between the two finally seals the second wicket-keeper’s spot is likely to be the most discussed topic during the meeting on Monday. Pant also has the backing of the recent show in the IPL where he has impressed all with his hitting prowess.
After this comes the bowlers and while the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal pick themselves, the pace bowling attack will undoubtedly have Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.
But here comes the third and final issue. While there have been talks of adding the fourth pacer, some in the team management also feel that three pacers are enough as Pandya can always act as the fourth bowler.
With the wickets likely to be more on the slower side in England during the World Cup (May to July), the team management is toying with the idea of dropping the idea of picking another pacer and drafting Ravindra Jadeja into the team. While he is known to be a brilliant fielder, his batting will also ensure that the lower-order looks better on paper.
If the team still does look at the extra pacer, Navdeep Saini could be the dark horse. But for now it looks like Jadeja is leading the race.
While both Prasad and captain Virat Kohli have made it amply clear that players’ performance in the IPL will not be considered, sources in the know of developments told IANS that it will indeed be difficult to ignore some of the breathtaking knocks played by the likes of Rahul and Pant among others.
India’s 15-member World Cup Squad (likely): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik/Rishabh Pant.
Kings XI Punjab choose to bowl first against Delhi Capitals
Kings XI Punjab chose to bowl first against Delhi Capitals at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.
Both sides are playing their first matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) season.
Veteran West Indies batsman Chris Gayle won’t be playing for KXIP and captain KL Rahul said that they have gone for Glenn Maxwell, Nicholas Pooran, Sheldon Cottrell and Chris Jordan as their overseas players.
Meanwhile, DC captain Shreyas Iyer said that Shimron Hetmyer, Kagiso Rabada, Marcus Stoinis and Anrich Nortje are the overseas players included in their playing XI.
Delhi Capitals: Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (captain), Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Shimron Hetmyer, Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul(captain, wicketkeeper), Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Sarfaraz Khan, Glenn Maxwell, Nicholas Pooran, Krishnappa Gowtham, Chris Jordan, Sheldon Cottrell, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami
Staying indoors was difficult but gave time to strategise: KL Rahul
Kings XI Punjab skipper KL Rahul chose to bowl first after winning the toss against Delhi Capitals on Sunday and said that he doesn’t really know what to expect from the pitch at the Dubai International Stadium.
“Fresh wicket, don’t really know what to expect. I’m confident and so is the entire team, great opportunity to go out and play some cricket,” said Rahul after the toss on Star Sports.
“Staying indoors was difficult, but it also gave us time to think about our strategy, Maxwell, Pooran, Jordan and Cottrell are our four overseas players.”
Delhi Capitals captain Shreyas Iyer said that they would have bowled first as well.
“I have learnt to take some responsibility, with the likes of (Ricky) Ponting and (Sourav) Ganguly, it makes my task a bit easier. Looking forward to a great season. We have plenty of options and it was difficult settling for the best XI,” he said.
Both sides are playing their first match of the season. Earlier, Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians by five wickets in the season opener on Saturday.
CSK have edge in spin dept, Mumbai in batting
Two of the most successful teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL) history — Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) — will be up against each other in the opening match of the 13th edition here at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Saturday.
Despite the high-octane clash featuring the two top teams that have a huge fan following, this match as well as the others will be played in empty stadiums due to Covid-19 pandemic. Both the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Chennai side and Rohit Sharma captained Mumbai Indian are surely going to miss the crowd support this time around.
CSK recently suffered two major jolts as Suresh Raina and HarbhajanSingh opted out of the tournament citing personal reasons. It will be interesting to see how a charismatic leader like Dhoni, known for calmly handling all types of tense situations, overcomes their absence.
However, who replaces Raina will be known only when matches begin. With Ruturaj Gaikwad also being ruled out of the campaign opener, Kedhar Jadhav may be asked to bat at No. 3. CSK have the option of opening with Faf du Plessis and Watson. But juggling the foreign players and including then in the XI is also something the team management will have to look at. A maximum of four foreigners can be part of a playing XI, and Watson and Dwayne Bravo could be among the automatic starters.
In the bowling department, either Lungi Ngidi or Josh Hazlewood could make the cut. CSK is expected to rely on South African Imran Tahir while Mitchell Santner of New Zealand so far spin is concerned.
Harbhajan and Ravindra Jadeja could have formed a lethal spin attack. However, with Harbhajan missing, Tahir’s experience will become priceless. In such a situation, du Plessis could to miss the tournament opener, as the South African could find a berth in the XI if Dhoni opts to go with leg-spinner Piyush Chawla.
The middle-order batting will once again rely on Bravo and the skipper Dhoni himself as both of them are capable of rotating the strike, accelerating the run-rate, and even changing the outcome of the game.
In the pace department, Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar will lead the charge. If situation demands, Chahar can be handy with the bat. It will be seen on the match day how the Chennai team management utilises Ngidi and Hazlewood.
On the other hand, three-time champions Mumbai Indians have strengthened their batting after signing swashbuckling Aussie batter Chris Lynn. Mumbai could pose a major threat to their opponents as Rohit has confirmed that he would open the innings with Quinton de Kock. The duo had accumulated a massive 565 runs from 15 games together last year. While Rohit gathered 405, the South African stumper amassed a massive 529 runs and if the duo repeat the show, the Chennai bowlers would experience a tough time in their campaign opener.
The other opening options, possibly in an emergency, are former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu. In the middle-order, Mumbai enjoys many options with the likes of experienced Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya and his brother Krunal. Sherfane Rutherford and Saurabh Tiwary are the other options for Mumbai.
Looking at the pitches in the UAE and their expected behavior, low and slow that will help spinners more, CSK hold an edge over Mumbai as they have Bravo in their ranks, who has the ability to utilise such conditions while Watson’s experience could also come handy. Also, with Jadeja, Santner, and Piyush in their side, Chennai have more spin options than their opponents.
Overall, the two sides have met 30 times in the history of the IPL, with Mumbai winning 18 matches and CSK the rest.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Sherfane Rutherford, Suryakumar Yadav, Anmolpreet Singh, Chris Lynn, Saurabh Tiwary, Ishan Kishan, Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Aditya Tare, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Anukul Roy, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaspreet Bumrah, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Mohsin Khan, Prince Balwant Rai Singh, Digvijay Deshmukh, Jayant Yadav, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain/wicket-keeper), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Narayan Jagadeesan (wicket-keeper), KM Asif , Ravindra Jadeja, M Vijay, Josh Hazlewood, Kedar Jadhav, Harbhajan Singh, Karn Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Imran Tahir , Deepak Chahar, Faf du Plessis, Shardul Thakur, Mitchell Santner, Dwayne Bravo, Lungi Ngidi, Sam Curran, Monu Kumar, Shane Watson, Sai Kishore
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