Will These 5 Players Make Their Way Into India’s World Cup Squad?
Taking another big step in their preparation for the ‘all-important’, ‘much-awaited’, ‘highly-anticipated’ 2019 World Cup, India wrapped up a historic win against in Australia this month.
Virat Kohli’s Men in Blue are approximately just 10 ODIs away – including those in New Zealand and against Australia at home – from playing their WC campaign opener against South Africa on 5 June.
While India have a clear idea of their core group of players who will be heading to England this summer, there still remains a certain amount of doubt over some others. With still a whole IPL season also to go before the big tournament, here’s a look at players who could still make their way into the World Cup squad.
1. Rishabh Pant
He’s just three ODIs old, but Rishabh Pant has managed to enter the reckoning for a priceless World Cup berth, with his latest string of performances.
The 21-year-old was included in India’s home series against West Indies series, just as a batsman, with MS Dhoni keeping the stumps. His scores of 17 and 24 in that series were far from impressive, and he was subsequently not included in the ODI squad for Australia and New Zealand. But chairman of selector MSK Prasad said Pant is still “very much in our World Cup plans", and was just resting after the T20s and Tests against Australia.
Pant scored a 159*, the first century by an Indian wicket keeper in Australia, in the drawn final Test at Sydney to top his record number of catches (11) behind the stumps in the series opener at Adelaide.
The Delhi wicketkeeper is now set to feature in India A’s last two one-dayers against England Lions in end-January to make one final case for a World Cup berth, that could possibly see him replace Dinesh Karthik as India’s second-choice wicketkeeper.
2. KL Rahul
KL Rahul is currently serving the punishment for appearing on a TV chat show along with Hardik Pandya. Yes, ‘appearing’, because from the episode that was aired on 5 January, nothing he said deserved the same suspension (pending inquiry) that was also handed to Pandya for his extremely sexist, misogynistic and crass statements.
Now the CoA is bickering, and the matter has reached the Supreme Court, which means Rahul will just have to wait, and see when he can resume competing again, and start to make his case. Because recent form certainly hasn’t been on his side. In 2018, KL scored just one half-century and one hundred in 22 Test innings; he played three ODIs, and scored a 60 in the one against Afghanistan; In T20Is, he smashed an unbeaten century in Manchester in July 2018, and has since not scored over 26 in the 7 innings he came out to bat.
3. Khaleel Ahmed
Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav – when it comes to pacers, India ‘seam’ to have a problem of plenty. However, none of the above-mentioned names barring Bumrah have returned consistently good ODI figures. And hence, there is a chance that Khaleel Ahmed has added his name to that long list for the 2019 World Cup.
One big reason which puts him in the reckoning is that he’s a left-arm seamer, who has proven he can swing the ball, adding variation to the Indian bowling line-up.
Khaleel made his India debut at the Asia Cup, and subsequently features in the home series against Windies, in which he picked up 7 wickets in four matches. He was also named in the playing eleven for the ODI series opener against Australia, but was dropped for the remainder after he failed to pick up any wickets at Sydney.
4. Ambati Rayudu
Ambati Rayudu’s exploits in the IPL earned him a spot in the Indian dressing room last year. The 33-year-old made his international comeback after over two years at the Asia Cup, where he scored two half-centuries in six matches and remained unbeaten on two of those occasions. He carried that form into the series against West Indies, scoring a hundred and a half-century in four innings. That hundred became the talk of the town because it was scored while batting at the highly problematic No 4 position. In fact, this was only the third time since the 2015 World Cup that an Indian batsman at No 4 had scored a century.
However, when India toured Australia, Rayudu failed to leave the same kind of impression. After scores of 0 and 24, he was dropped for the third and final series deciding ODI at Melbourne. With a history of being injury-prone, Rayudu will now have to deliver consistent performances to make sure the selectors keep him in their plans for the 2019 World Cup.
5. Ajinkya Rahane
Away from ODIs since February last year, Ajinkya Rahane is another cricketer who seems to be in the plans of the national selectors for the quadrennial tournament.
The 30-year-old, who has been struggling in the shorter formats, was named captain for India A’s first three one-dayers against the England Lions, starting 23 January.
In the 17 ODIs he played before his last ODI appearance in South Africa, Rahane had scored 725 runs at an average of 48.33, that included one century and 8 half-centuries.
However, the batsman in November last year said, "I am confident of coming back into the ODI team and be a part of the Indian team for the World Cup. As I said, it is important to play in domestic tournaments for this to happen".