Will selectors pick Vijay Shankar, KL Rahul and Jaydev Unadkat in India’s World Cup squad?

There is a common saying in football about profligate strikers: They miss chances only because they reach a position where they can score one.

It’s not very different for a cricket analyst who likes to stick his neck out.

In this case, it is me who is in a mood to predict and I must say that I have been wrong on occasions. But hey, what’s the fun if we don’t even take chances with our gut feeling? I have a feeling I won’t be off the mark this time. (READ MORE: Is this the best Indian batting order for the World Cup?)

I feel that India’s squad for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup is all but fixed after the 4-1 series win against New Zealand. Unless there is a miracle or some serious injury concerns, the original squad members for the New Zealand series are the ones who will collect their boarding passes for the Heathrow-bound flight in May.

Once Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah comes back for the home ODIs against Australia, the 15 that will be chosen for the first three games will be the ones. Bad luck for the few good ones who miss out. (READ MORE: Wellington win will have a keen bearing on India’s World Cup squad)

Such as Shubman Gill, the next big hope of Indian cricket, who will certainly play a lot of World Cups but unfortunately maybe not this one. And also Ravindra Jadeja, who I believe will miss out on selection. With Hardik Pandya back as the seam-bowling allrounder , that slot is taken. That would also mean both the wrist-spinners then can play and Kedar Jadhav can fill in as the third spinner.

That said, there could be one, or at the most two, exceptions to this norm.

Will the left-armer Khaleel Ahmed merit a lengthy discussion when India's selectors meet?
Will the left-armer Khaleel Ahmed merit a lengthy discussion when India’s selectors meet? © AFP

I believe one could be Jaydev Unadkat who has had a fabulous this domestic season. I was at the ground to witness his escapades in the semi-final and final of the Ranji Trophy and I believe that Unadkat’s current form and experience could come in handy. (READ MORE: Unadkat happy with Saurashtra’s Ranji campaign)

Khaleel Ahmed, on the other hand, has struggled a bit in the last two series in Australia and New Zealand. India need a left-arm pacer, and the toss-up to my mind would be between Khaleel and Unadkat, although I don’t see them walking straight into the playing XI come June 5 versus South Africa.

The third would be Rishabh Pant, who has captured the imagination of one and all. That he has been asked bat higher up seems to be keeping in mind the back-up opener’s slot in England. With Dinesh Karthik already there as the second wicketkeeper, Pant, if included, will be either the third opener or the reserve middle-order batsman. He could be the second keeper if Karthik gets the axe, but I have doubts considering he has the experience of 90-odd ODIs in various batting positions.

KL Rahul is another name that crops up in my mind. The last few months has been quite forgettable for him in Test matches but in white-ball cricket his form has been noteworthy. Rahul getting runs against England Lions in the ongoing series would help him and the selectors get some confidence back, but will that be enough?

The other possible name that might crop up would be Ajinkya Rahane. He too had a fairly good run against England Lions in the one-dayers he played for India A. Given the expected conditions in England and Wales for the World Cup and the hot and cold form of Shikhar Dhawan, the third opener’s choice is a potential debating point in the selection meeting.

The biggest worry till date is the middle order but the splendid recovery in the last ODI has reinforced the belief in Ambati Rayudu. When I look at Rayudu’s record and his performance against various nations, I have no hesitation in saying that this is his best knock taking the conditions and quality of attack into consideration.

Ambati Rayudu finished the New Zealand series as the top scorer.
Ambati Rayudu finished the New Zealand series as the top scorer. © AFP

Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni select themselves but Vijay Shankar has shown he is a capable enough batsman at No 6. However, since he is still not a 10-over bowler yet, Shankar’s presence will depend a lot on the surfaces that we would get during the World Cup. The same for Jadeja. 

Rayudu and Shankar seeing that dangerous spell through in Wellington and then capitalising must have emboldened the team’s faith of winning games from tough situations. The performance of the team and the individuals to a great extent has made the job of the selectors comparatively easy for picking the squad for the World Cup.

Even though the team management might have sleepless nights in picking the playing XI, there might be few names worth discussing in the selection meeting. As I see it, there is no major reason to change the squad which was picked for the NZ ODI series.

The selection of the ODI squad tomorrow for the Australia series will be a good indicator. I also have a feeling that IPL performances might have the final say in few of the cases.

So here’s my World Cup squad of 15: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (capt), Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Dinesh Karthik/Rishabh Pant, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Vijay Shankar, Khaleel Ahmed/Jaydev Unadkat.

What do you think?