Being named in the 30-man India probables does not count for much because 15 of them will not make the final squad for the Cricket World Cup. Sure, this list of 30 includes players who have been performing consistently at the domestic level and for India A, in the unofficial ODI and Test matches at home and overseas. But national team selection doesn’t work in a way that the selectors make wholesale changes to the Indian Test or ODI squad from one bilateral series to another.
What we have learnt from the squads named for the last few series is Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have gone down the pecking order in the spin bowling department. And Umesh Yadav is predominantly looked at as a Test bowler, along with Ishant Sharma. Mohammed Shami has been named in the Indian ODI squad for the series against South Africa in South Africa, meaning he is looked at as one of the three pacers in the Indian ODI side along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, particularly in bowler-friendly conditions.
But coming back to the subject of probables, if you are one of those 30 cricketers, then one reason to be happy is that your name was at least discussed by the selectors and you were in the picture somewhere for selection.
Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, who were part of the 2011 World Cup-winning squad, were not named among the India probables for World Cup 2015. And no prizes for guessing as to who were their replacements in the final fifteen: Ajinkya Rahane at No. 4, Rohit Sharma and bowling spearhead Mohammed Shami, respectively. Four years earlier, Rahul Dravid, a former Indian captain, wasn’t part of this glorified 30-player list too.
Looking ahead to the 2019 World Cup in England, the selectors and team management have a pool of quality players to choose from. Speaking at a press conference after announcing the Indian ODI and T20 squads for the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in August-September 2017, the chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, said: “We have 22 to 24-25 players in mind. We will be rotating them and we will see how they progress. After a certain period of time, we will keep on shortlisting so that we can focus on them at least eight months to one year leading up to the World Cup.”
A no-brainer: we already know the majority of the fifteen who will be on the flight to London in May 2019. But because of factors such as the time left (17 months) for the next quadrennial tournament, the shortcomings of the current India ODI squad and the imperative to keep evolving and stay abreast with the constantly changing dynamics of the 50-over format, being fixated on only those 15 players or even 20 will do the two-time world champions no good.
India 2019 World Cup probables
The players mentioned here are those who have been playing for India, played in the recent past and are returning to the side after injury layoffs.
Let us start off with the batsmen:
|Batsmen in the India 2019 World Cup probables|
|Rohit Sharma||Opener||A regular|
|Shikhar Dhawan||Opener||A regular|
|Ajinkya Rahane||Opener||Fringe player|
|Virat Kohli (C)||No. 3 batsman||Batting mainstay|
|Kedar Jadhav||No. 6 batsman||A regular|
|Dinesh Karthik||No. 4/5 batsman||On the audition list|
|Manish Pandey||Middle order batsman||On the audition list|
|Shreyas Iyer||Top order batsman||On the audition list|
|Lokesh Rahul||Top order batsman||Dropped|
|Suresh Raina||Middle order batsman||Dropped|
|Yuvraj Singh||Middle order batsman||Dropped|
Four of the first five batsmen pretty much pick themselves and unless anything untoward happens, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, and Kedar Jadhav will not just be probables but part of India’s 2019 World Cup squad.
The search for the No. 4 batsman has begun, with Yuvraj dropping out, contrary to what the selectors have said, and Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer are auditioning for this role.
Iyer, 22, is a top order mainstay in the Mumbai and India A batting line-ups and with strike-rates of 91.90 (List A) and 126.21 (T20s)—at the time of writing—he certainly has the qualities to bat at any position from Nos. 3 to 6. Given a chance to bat in the top order in Virat Kohli’s absence for the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka, Iyer showed that he can pace an ODI innings to perfection, play the big shots and score at more than a run a ball. Yes, he also showed that he has a tendency to throw his wicket away when he is playing well, but on the whole, he was impressive. And by scoring a couple of half-centuries in the ODI series and making a couple of good contributions in the T20I series, Iyer has put himself in the fray for a permanent spot in the Indian middle order.
Suresh Raina last played an ODI for India in October 2015, when South Africa toured India for a full tour comprising One-Day Internationals, T20Is and Tests. Fitness and health issues have kept this UP batsman out of the Indian ODI squads, in particular. Irrespective of whether or not Raina resurrects his ODI career, he is likely to be among the probables. Raina recently cleared the yo-yo test, which every player must pass to play for the current Indian side.
Rahane is being considered as a third opener and has found his opportunities to be minimal.
|Bowlers in the India 2019 World Cup probables|
|Bhuvneshwar Kumar||New ball bowler||Bowling spearhead|
|Jasprit Bumrah||Death-overs specialist||A regular|
|Mohammed Shami||New ball bowler||On the fringes|
|Kuldeep Yadav||Spinner||An ODI specialist|
|Yuzvendra Chahal||Spinner||An ODI specialist|
|Axar Patel||Spinner||Squad player|
|Shardul Thakur||Medium pacer||On the audition list|
|Jaydev Unadkat||Medium-fast bowler||On the audition list|
|Umesh Yadav||One-change bowler||Not being considered for selection|
Team India are well-stocked in the fast bowling department, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Jasprit Bumrah providing variety and being inherently wicket-taking bowlers, who are also ODI specialists. The 2019 World Cup squad might not have a place for a fifth out and out fast bowler. Yet, the likes of Shardul Thakur and Jaydev Unadkat (as a “left-arm seamer” option) might make the list of probables.
Ravichandran Ashwin, a specialist spinner and whose ODI bowling average is 40.58 since the last World Cup, and Ravindra Jadeja, an all-rounder in the 50-over format and in which his bowling average since the 2015 World Cup is 67.83, have been dropped from the Indian ODI and T20I sides after struggling over the last 18 to 24 months to pick wickets and also curb the run-rate during the middle overs. Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel have been given a long run in the side and this trio have used the opportunity to make themselves ODI regulars, pushing Ashwin and Jadeja down the pecking order.
Chances are that the batsmen and bowlers who will make India’s 2019 World Cup team will be from the above lists.
Continue reading: Part 2 of probables list