World Cup: No surprises in India’s 15-member squad

The status quo was emphatically reinforced in Sri Lanka as India announced their World Cup squad and the Asian Cricket Council confirmed that the Asia Cup would stick to its original schedule. The Super4 stage would be played in Colombo after logistical problems made moving to Hambantota at short notice too much of a challenge.In addition to this, at least one team was reluctant to make the move.

With the Indian team there were no surprises. The fifteen was picked from the group involved in the Asia Cup, with the exception of Prasidh Krishna, Tilak Varma and reserve wicketkeeper Sanju Samson.

At the press conference announcing the team, both Rohit Sharma and Ajit Agarkar stressed that the guiding principle in this selection was balance. The team actively looked at multifaceted cricketers, led by Hardik Pandya, named vice-captain, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur.

The batting picked itself, with all first-choice players being fit and available for selection.

If there was one talking point, it was that India had only one slow bowler who took the ball away from left-handed batsmen, in Kuldeep Yadav.

The off-spin options discussed and considered were R Ashwin and Washington Sundar. Ashwin is tremendously skilled and experienced but his lack of speed in the field went against him. Add to this that his batting in limited-overs cricket does not have the dynamism that you expect down the order, and its understandable that he missed the cut.Washington’s case is a bit more intriguing. A top-order batsman of proven class at the domestic level, he was used as a bowler who bats a bit in the Indian Premier League and international cricket. Even in this role he shone in the IPL bowling the difficult overs in the power play and the death. But, in the lead up to the World Cup, when the team was taking shape, Washington did not get enough opportunities to cement his place.In an ideal situation, India would have liked to have an offspiner in the mix, and perhaps would have picked one of these two had the squad allowed 16 players rather than 15.

Another player who would have been an asset is Varma. A left-hand bat who has grabbed every opportunity presented to him, Varma’s game elastically adjusts to different formats. He has a solid foundation and the right attitude. Above all, he has shown an unflappable temperament, something that is always a good sign in a young cricketer. But, time in on his hand and he will eventually get a look in in all formats.

One final question remained and it was too premature to address this. KL Rahul might be back in the mix, but it would be a risk to walk him straight back into the team. India is fortunate that they have a few Asia Cup matches in which to take a look at him. However, this would be unfair on Ishan Kishan, who made a strong case for himself with an 81-ball 82 under extreme pressure.

However, the Indian think tank hold Rahul in such high esteem that his pedigree and track record will shade Kishan’s red-hot form.

Overall, it’s hard to find fault with the squad that has been chosen. You could quibble about one name or two but even that would only change the personnel involved, not the overall make up of the team.

This fifteen allows Rohit enough elbow room to pick a playing eleven based on the conditions and the opposition, which is critical in a tournament such as the World Cup. Nine different opponents in as many venues means that flexibility will be tested.

The squad also reflects Rohit’s ideology as captain. He is not one to take wild risks or punt on long shots. Rather, he prefers to have a clear plan and execute it with minimal fuss. Rohit is unlikely to use a pinch-hitter or give the last over of an innings to a part-time spinner, as some captains might.

What was also evident was that the captain, coach and selectors were on the same page, which is a must for any team to give itself the best chance of winning a global event.

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