After weeks and weeks of discussions, the final answer will be revealed on Monday: who will be the chosen 15 to represent India at the World Cup in United Kingdom?
In reality though, when the selectors meet to confirm the 15, it will be to pick one of India’s most predictable World Cup squads. The main debate will likely center around the second wicketkeeper, the number four slot and the need for an additional pacer.
At the end of the home series against Australia, skipper Virat Kohli had indicated that potentially only one slot was up for grabs, as the core had been set for the past one year.
With 14 members all but decided for the marquee event in England starting May 30, the discussion on combination is likely to take precedence over any out-of-the-box name or a left-field selection, reported news agency PTI.
Will Pant make the cut?
Rishabh Pant’s competition for the second keeper’s slot with veteran Dinesh Karthik is likely to be the highlight of the discussion. Pant, who has so far scored 245 runs in the IPL compared to a mere 111 by Karthik, looks favourite on paper as his inclusion comes with certain advantages. He can bat at any slot in the middle order, is a left-hander, who can be a designated finisher plus the second keeper.
Pant’s keeping skills against spinners has room for improvement but Karthik hasn’t done anything in the last 12 months to make a strong case for himself.
Their franchise coaches Ricky Ponting (Delhi Capitals) and Jacques Kallis (Kolkata Knight Riders), though, have thrown their weight behind their respective stars.
In potential bad news for both Pant and Karthik, KL Rahul (335 runs in the ongoing IPL) will surely be in the mix as the third opener and given he is regularly keeping for Kings XI Punjab, the selectors might be tempted to use him as the second keeper, apart from third opener.
“The second keeper only comes into play if MS Dhoni is injured. Rishabh is a phenomenal talent but he has not done anything exceptional in ODIs. Can he hit consistently in 50 overs is the question. But he is in mix,” a former India player, privy to selection patterns, is quoted as saying by PTI.
In case Rahul is made the second keeper, it might just open the doors for an additional specialist batsman or a bowler.
Ambati Rayudu, then, could get a look in, despite not being in the best of form. Rayudu was a certainty till November when Kohli and Ravi Shastri had identified him as their No 4 but the Hyderabad batsman’s poor technique against fast bowling and an inability to rotate striker has left him thoroughly exposed.
With Shreyas Iyer not given any chance during the international season, Rayudu might get lucky if the idea of a specialist second keeper is done away with.
An additional pacer?
In case the team management considers all-rounder Vijay Shankar as their No. 4 at the start of the tournament, then it would be curtains for Rayudu. The final bone of contention could be the fourth specialist seamer considering that the English weather could be very fickle, especially in places like Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.
But what could pose a problem is India’s fourth specialist pacer Umesh Yadav’s inconsistency. Khaleel Ahmed is a left-arm option but he has not shown enough maturity in testing times. But, if recency bias does have a role to play, the 21-year-old seamer produced a superb spell of bowling in his first IPL match on Sunday, playing his first match of the season for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Khaleel took the wickets of openers Prithvi Shaw (4) and Shikhar Dhawan (7) as well as that of dangerous Rishabh Pant (23) while conceding 30 runs from his four overs after Delhi were put into bat.
Ishant Sharma, for his past record in England, a tearaway quick like Navdeep Saini or may be even a good powerplay bowler like Deepak Chahar could all be inspirational choices but it remains to be seen if the think-tank ventures into the left-field.
“As of now the team is looking at Vijay Shankar and Hardik Pandya as the combined fourth seamer. Ravindra Jadeja with his all round skills and big hitting prowess is a necessity. Plus in dry conditions, he will be a restrictive option,” the aforementioned source told PTI.
“This selection committee has been pretty consistent with their policies and I don’t think they have any reasons to deviate. Don’t expect left field selections like Amay Khurasiya (1999) or Dinesh Mongia (2003). But you never know,” he added.
Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja
15th member: (options)
If 2nd keeper: Dinesh Karthik/Rishabh Pant
If specialist No 4: Ambati Rayudu
If 4th pacer: Umesh Yadav/Khaleel Ahmed/Ishant Sharma/Navdeep Saini.
The Field’s survey results:
% of votes for the 14 certainties for India
|Players||% of votes|
% of votes for the 15th member of India's squad
|Player||% of votes|