MS Dhoni's (left) guidance will be key for young captain Virat Kohli
MS Dhoni’s (left) guidance will be key for young captain Virat Kohli

Amidst the Indian Premier League (IPL) hullabaloo, teams have begun to prepare for the Champions Trophy that starts on June 1. Australia, South Africa and Bangladesh have already announced their 15-member squads for the eight-nation tournament. In the coming days, we will have more. The 10th edition of IPL has opened up the competition for slots in the Indian team, as the Indian selectors face a happy headache to choose from a pool of exceptional cricketers.

While IPL is a good platform for form indication, the conditions in England, in the month of June, will altogether be a different challenge. Usually the stars of the IPL and the preceding domestic season are rewarded with national caps in Zimbabwe tours, but Champions Trophy is no experiment ground. India enter the competition as the defending champions and despite the IPL brilliances, the national selectors may still go ahead with the tried and tested.

India will open their Group B campaign against archrivals Pakistan on June 4 at Edgbaston. However, the Virat Kohli-led side will play two warm-up games at The Oval in London before the tournament commences. India, ranked fourth in the ICC ODI Rankings, will face the third-ranked New Zealand on May 28 and two days later, take on neighbours Bangladesh.

With just over a month to go for the Champions Trophy, let us look at the probable 15 who will represent India at the event.

Openers:

Rohit Sharma: Despite his indifferent form of late, Rohit has established himself as one of the most destructive openers in ODIs. A fit Rohit is a certainty in limited-overs cricket and in all likelihood he will don the opener’s role.

ODIs: 153 | Runs: 5,131 | Ave: 41.37 | SR: 84.43 | HS: 264 | 100s: 10

Shikhar Dhawan: With concerns over KL Rahul’s fitness and with Ajinkya Rahane not making his chances count, Dhawan emerges as the top candidate to open with Rohit. The left hand-right hand opening combo has been destructive for India in the past and to Dhawan’s advantage is the fact that he boasts a tremendous record in ICC tournaments.

With 363 runs at 90.75 and with a strike rate of 101.39, Dhawan was the best batsman of Champions Trophy 2013 in England. It was a tournament that India ended up winning. What also helps his cause is the fact that KL Rahul may not be available for the tournament.

ODIs: 76 | Runs: 3,090 | Ave: 42.91 | SR: 89.95 | HS: 137 | 100s: 9

Middle-order:

Virat Kohli: This will be Kohli’s biggest challenge as India’s captain. He is relatively new as the limited-overs skipper and will be under immense pressure to defend the title. Adding to this, being the side’s best player, his personal form will be the key to India’s fortunes. Bring on the pressure; Kohli is known to thrive under it.

ODIs: 179 | Runs: 7,755 | Ave: 53.11 | SR: 90.76 | HS: 183 | 100s: 27

MS Dhoni: He may not have set things flying in the ongoing IPL but the former captain still has a lot to offer as the side’s key batsman in the middle-order. His under-pressure knocks against England earlier this year have given the fraternity glimpses of what Dhoni has still to offer as a batsman. His guidance will be important for Kohli and not to forget his prowess behind the stumps, especially against the spinners.

ODIs: 286 | Runs: 9,275 | Ave: 50.96 | SR: 88.98 | HS: 183* | 100s: 10 | Dismissals: 363

Yuvraj Singh: Kohli has thrown a lifejacket to Yuvraj’s sinking international career and the experienced stalwart has responded to his young captain’s faith with a couple of crucial knocks during the England series. Dhoni and Yuvraj have set up many wins for India in the past, and with them in the middle-order, it seems the time has transported us to the good old 2000s.

Yuvraj has a knack of scripting fairy tales. World Cup 2011 was one. Can he help India defend the ODI cricket’s second-most coveted trophy?

ODIs: 296 | Runs: 8,539 | Ave: 36.80| SR: 87.64 | HS: 150 | 100s: 14
Wickets: 111 | Ave: 38.45 | Economy R: 5.10 | BB: 5-31 | 5w: 1

Kedar Jadhav: The names of Suresh Raina and the uncapped Nitish Rana will be discussed for sure but Jadhav has been one of India’s finds in recent times. To slip into Raina’s role will be a tough task and Jadhav has not played enough cricket in conditions that England will present.

He can act as a back-up wicketkeeper and not to forget: he can chip in with useful off-spin. However, Jadhav’s primary role in the side will be that of a finisher.

ODIs: 15 | Runs: 468 | Ave: 58.50| SR: 121.55 | HS: 120 | 100s: 2
Wickets: 6 | Ave: 23.50 | Economy R: 5.22 | BB: 3-29

Manish Pandey: Between Pandey and Jadhav will be the toss-up for one slot in the XI. Right now Jadhav is ahead in the race but Pandey too has been in a rich form in the IPL. Pandey possesses right skills to fit into a No.4 batsman and if needed, can finish the innings with great authority.

In Pandey, India have a good back-up option. If Yuvraj, Jadhav or Dhawan suffer from indifferent form, Pandey will be the one slipping in to either of the boots.

ODIs: 12 | Runs: 261 | Ave: 43.50| SR: 96.30 | HS: 104* | 100s: 1

All-rounders:

Hardik Pandya: The Baroda all-rounder has managed to fill-up a long-time gap in Indian cricket. A quality pace bowling all-rounder is a rarity in Indian cricket and Pandya has shown promise so far. In English conditions, his pace and ability to move the ball with come handy. Not to forget, Pandya can tonk the ball to distance and has proved his prowess down the order.

ODIs: 7 | Runs: 160 | Ave: 53.33| SR: 119.40 | HS: 56 | 50s: 1
Wickets: 9 | Ave: 25.93 | Economy R: 5.80 | BB: 3-31

Ravindra Jadeja: He can’t put a foot wrong these days, can he? Jadeja will be the side’s primary spinner in the tournament. In the previous edition of the Champions Trophy, Jadeja exploited the English conditions better than anyone else did. He finished with 12 wickets at 12.83, and his economy rate was a mind-boggling 3.75. Jadeja’s ability to bat will only add to the batting depth of the side. And not to forget his fielding, which is the best in the side.

ODIs: 129 | Runs: 1,888 | Ave: 32.00| SR: 85.54 | HS: 87 | 50s: 10
Wickets: 151 | Ave: 34.68 | Economy R: 4.88 | BB: 5-36 | 5w: 1

Spinners:

Ravichandran Ashwin: Ashwin was one of India’s stars in their Champions Trophy triumph in 2013. He may not be the first choice spinner in limited-overs at the moment but Ashwin and Jadeja have been a lethal combination for India. If India play two spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja will be the first choice.

ODIs: 105 | Wickets: 145 | Ave: 32.37 | Economy R: 4.91 | BB: 4-25

Amit Mishra: Highly underrated and unlucky, Mishra has been India’s best spin bowler in recent times. He got a five-for in the last ODI that he played before making way for Ashwin. Mishra’s wrist spin will add variety to the attack and present Kohli with an attacking option. Selecting Mishra could go on to be a masterstroke.

ODIs: 36 | Wickets: 64 | Ave: 23.60 | Economy R: 4.72 | BB: 6-48 | 5w: 2

Pace brigade:

Bhuvneshwar Kumar: The Uttar Pradesh seamer has displayed rich form of late and the English conditions are tailor-made for him. Bhuvi possesses the ability to move the ball in the air as well as off the surface. Bhuvi’s good form can be an asset for Team India.

ODIs: 59 | Wickets: 61 | Ave: 39.62 | Economy R: 4.95 | BB: 4-8

Mohammed Shami: If he is fit, Shami gets to leads India’s bowling attack. He is one of the finest pacers India have produced in limited-overs. Shami’s consistency and seam presentation makes him special. He can move the ball at great speed. A fit Shami can prove to be the differentiator.

ODIs: 47 | Wickets: 87 | Ave: 24.89 | Economy R: 5.54 | BB: 4-35

Jasprit Bumrah: He may be only 23 but his maturity level and intelligence has already placed him amongst the top contemporary bowlers. Bumrah’s strength lies in his death bowling.

ODIs: 11 | Wickets: 22 | Ave: 21.68 | Economy R: 4.89 | BB: 4-22

Umesh Yadav: He has been India’s most improved cricketer this season. The fastest amongst all the Indian pacers, Umesh was India’s highest wicket-taker in the World Cup 2015 and played an important role in the side’s campaign till semi-final. Umesh’s ability to swing the ball at a good pace will be of great advantage.

ODIs: 63 | Wickets: 88 | Ave: 33.69 | Economy R: 6.01 | BB: 4-31

India’s likely squad: Virat Kohli (c), MS Dhoni (wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav

Knowing India’s way of slipping in an extra member, young Rishabh Pant may just make the cut as a back-up wicketkeeper.