May 8 update: India’s confirmed Champions Trophy 2017 squad is the same as what Cricfooty had predicted. Injured Lokesh Rahul has been replaced by his state team-mate and Kolkata Knight Riders star Manish Pandey!
At the time of writing this article, 94 days are left for the start of ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England. This 94-day period could be looked at as a relatively short one or a fairly long one. From Indian Cricket‘s perspective, Virat Kohli and co. are currently involved in a four-Test series against Australia and after its culmination, a lot of the players from the Indian squad will be joining up with their IPL franchises for IPL 2017.
In cricketing terms, three months is a fairly long time during which players can get injured, firstly, and suffer a drop in form too. The IPL, in particular, with the travelling, matches being played in quick succession and the hustle-bustle nature of T20 cricket, can be draining for the players.
Team India’s performances, though, during the limited-overs series wins over England and the 3-2 ODI series win over New Zealand last year, have given us a bit of guide as to what the final 15-man squad for the Champions Trophy might be.
Likely Indian Squad for ICC Champions Trophy 2017
The Vijay Hazare Trophy 2017 began yesterday (February 25) in Cuttack and many Indian players—including the former Indian captain MS Dhoni (Jharkhand), Shikhar Dhawan (Delhi), Yuvraj Singh (Punjab), Manish Pandey (Karnataka), Ashish Nehra (Delhi), Mandeep Singh (Punjab), Suresh Raina (Uttar Pradesh), Jasprit Bumrah (Gujarat), Hardik Pandya (Baroda), etc.—who were part of the squads for the ODI and T20I series against England, are involved in this domestic one-day tournament.
Nehra, for instance, has said that he would love to play in the Champions Trophy and make an ODI return after exactly six years. And his bowling performances for Delhi, over the next fortnight, could give the Indian selectors an indication of his fitness, most importantly, taking into account that the left-arm pacer has been injury prone throughout his career and getting through 10 overs in an ODI is a lot different from bowling four overs in a T20I.
Indian Openers for the Champions Trophy
When the selectors sit down to pick the Indian squad, the biggest topic of discussion will be the opening pairing and who is the third opener.
13, 14 and 13 were the stands provided by the regular and makeshift Indian openers in the three-ODI series against England, which was missed by Rohit Sharma because he has been recovering from a right quadriceps injury suffered during the final ODI vs. New Zealand.
The Mumbai batsman will probably return to India’s squad for the final two Tests against Australia and if he does not suffer any further injuries, he is a certainty in India’s 15-man squad for the Champions Trophy. He is India’s No. 1 opener in ODIs and T20Is.
But the bigger question is, who will partner Rohit at the top of the order?
One of Ajinkya Rahane‘s two ODI centuries has come in England, more specifically at the Edgbaston in Birmingham, where India and Pakistan lock horns on June 4. Rahane has played better in overseas conditions than he has in India, across formats. But he has flattered to deceive lately in limited-overs cricket: big-hitting isn’t his forte and Rahane also struggles to rotate strike regardless of the position he bats at. Rohit’s partner, ideally, has to be someone who is capable of scoring runs in a hurry in the mandatory powerplay and Rahane is definitely not a batsman who suits that role.
Lokesh Rahul has played only half-a-dozen ODIs for India, and against England, the Karnataka batsman managed a meagre tally of 24 runs in three innings. While Rahul has the repertoire of an opener, he is very much a new face in the Indian limited-overs setup. Plus, like Rahane, KL Rahul is a right-hander and from a tactical viewpoint, the Indian team management might want to have a left-right batting combination at the top.
Which then brings us to Shikhar Dhawan, who is enduring a rough patch and is not the batsman he was at the start of 2016. However, the ODI series against England was his first since the five-ODI series between Australia and India in January 2016, when he was one of the leading run-scorers for India, along with Rohit and Kohli. Dhawan failed in the first two ODIs against England and wasn’t picked for the third ODI in Kolkata, the reason for which was unclear because the Delhi southpaw had gone for a doctor consultation before the match regarding a bruising on his previously fractured left thumb and had failed in the first two one-dayers too.
Mind you, Dhawan was the man of the Champions Trophy 2013, which was also played in England, for his tally of 363 runs and the Delhi southpaw has forged a good opening partnership with Rohit Sharma. He is arguably the perfect foil for Rohit, who likes to play the bulk of the 50 overs and Dhawan’s proactive batting upfront does give the Mumbai batsman the breathing space at the start of his innings. From the team welfare’s point of view too, Dhawan can give India a headstart and help grab the early initiative.
Openers in the Indian team for ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul (third or backup opener)
Indian Middle Order
The Indian middle order picks itself, with captain Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni slotting themselves at Nos. 3, 4 and 5. This is the most straightforward selection for the selectors when they sit down to pick the Indian team for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
Yuvraj and Dhoni played just one good knock each in the three ODIs against England, as this iconic duo struck their 14th and 10th ODI hundreds while being involved in a record 256-run stand for the fourth wicket in the second ODI in Cuttack.
Although Dhoni and Yuvraj aren’t the batsmen they once were and could be a liability if they walk in with their team two or three down with not many on the board, India will hope that this duo deliver the goods.
Kedar Jadhav has displaced Suresh Raina and become a No. 6 batsman who India can rely on. He put up an exhibition of his batting skills in the three ODIs against England, making 232 runs, and has made No. 6 his own ahead of the Champions Trophy 2017. Jadhav will be vital to India’s chances of retaining the trophy they won in the 2013 edition of this tournament.
Middle order batsmen in the Indian squad for Champions Trophy 2017: Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (WK), and Kedar Jadhav
Read: Part 2 of the probable Indian squad for Champions Trophy 2017
Have your say in the comments: Who should be Rohit Sharma’s opening partner?