5 players India should try ahead of the World Cup
It’s the World Cup year and all the focus ahead of the mega event is on getting the squads and the team combinations right. Teams have been preparing for the World Cup and are trying to make the most out of whatever games they’ve got left before the event.
In the recent past, India have been on a roll. They have lost just one ODI bilateral series in the last three years. In fact, since the 2015 World Cup, they have the second-best win-loss ratio (2.25). They’ve had a very good start to 2019 as well as they registered series wins in Australia and New Zealand. Hence, it does seem like most of the players pick themselves for the upcoming World Cup.
However, there are a few areas of concern and a couple of spots that aren’t fixed yet. The ‘Men in Blue’ have just one more series (five games) to fine-tune their skills before the mega event. Thus, they could try out a few fringe players in the upcoming series. Here are five players India should try ahead of the World Cup.
#5 KL Rahul
The Karnataka opener has had a tough time in the recent past. He hasn’t been in the best of form and has also had issues off the field. He’s had a torrid time in Test cricket and had a pretty poor 2018 with the bat.
However, Rahul hasn’t got a lot of opportunities in the shorter formats. While he’s played the T20 format regularly, he’s hardly got any opportunities in ODI cricket. In 2018, he played only three 50-over games. He was not out in one of the games, while he registered a duck in another (batting at No. 4) and struck a fifty (opening the innings) in his final ODI of 2018.
He’s been India’s backup opener for almost a year now but just hasn’t got the opportunities. However, off-field controversies meant that he was suspended and subsequently axed from the team just before the ODI series in Australia. He recently showed signs of returning to form against England Lions and thus deserves an opportunity at the top of the order.
#4 Ajinkya Rahane
Another player who was in India’s scheme of things not too long ago. Ajinkya Rahane was the designated No. 4 in South Africa a year ago. However, he was dropped due to some inconsistent performances.
KL Rahul’s poor form and off-field issues might’ve opened the door for Rahane. He’s been in good form as well of late. In the recent series against England Lions, he scored a couple of good half-centuries and looked in decent rhythm. In fact, he averages almost 75 in List ‘A’ cricket this season.
Though Rahane hasn’t played for India in limited-overs cricket for about a year, India's chairman of selectors MSK Prasad revealed that he is in contention for a World Cup spot and hence, he could get a go before the World Cup. He could well be considered as the back-up opener and can double up as a backup middle-order batsman as well.
#3 Krunal Pandya
Krunal Pandya is just nine international matches old and he’s already impressed. However, he's shown a lot of inconsistency in these nine matches. In the last three T20I series that India have played, the senior Pandya has featured in the XI in all of the games.
He’s played a couple of quickfire cameos and has won a couple of Man of the Match awards for some fine bowling performances. He has gone for runs in a couple of matches but has shown that he has the ability to bounce back strongly.
He hasn’t played a single ODI till date but can be a useful option. The left-arm all-rounder has constantly been playing for India ‘A’ and has done well. He could be used as a floater in the batting line-up and is very effective with his left-arm spin. Thus, he could be a backup option as an all-rounder.
#2 Umesh Yadav
Umesh Yadav has been warming the benches of the national team across formats for a while now. In 2018, he played just 14 matches (5 Tests, 4 ODIs and 5 T20Is) for India. He was excellent with the red ball in India but failed to replicate his performances overseas.
In the shorter formats, he blew hot and cold throughout the year. He picked four wickets in as many games in ODI cricket while he took 8 wickets in five T20Is. However, he had a wonderful IPL where he took 20 wickets in the season and was excellent with the new ball.
He hasn’t had too many opportunities in white-ball cricket in the recent past. After a couple of poor outings against the Windies at home, he was axed from the team.
However, he’s roared back into form, bowling a couple of match-winning spells in the Ranji Trophy quarters and semis. Hence, he could be a useful option going into the World Cup.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami have been injury-prone and he could fill in as a replacement or even be used as a fourth seamer (if India opt to go in with four pacers in addition to Hardik Pandya).
#1 Rishabh Pant
There’s been a lot of buzz around Rishabh Pant. The 21-year-old Delhi lad has been a revelation in the Test side. He’s scored 696 runs in 9 Test matches at an average of 49.71. He’s got a couple of big hundreds on the tours of England and Australia.
However, he hasn’t got a lot of opportunities in white-ball cricket. While he’s played a few T20Is, he hasn’t looked at his best. Meanwhile, he’s played just a couple of innings in ODIs.
India’s middle-order has struggled quite a bit in recent times and Pant could well be given an opportunity ahead of the World Cup. He’s in good form and can be the game-changer India’s looking for in the middle-order. He could double up as the backup wicket-keeper as well.