Australia has announced its provisional squad for the World Cup. So does England. New Zealand have named a strong team, without being one of the biggest match winners, for an upcoming bilateral series. The big boys of world cricket, barring India, look solid ahead of the ODI World Cup. Pakistan, on the other hand, announced the squad for the Asia Cup.
In March, just before the start of the IPL, head coach Rahul Dravid told the management of the team he had zeroed out 17-18 players. Dravid said that 3 bilateral series — against Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia at the start of the World Cup — gave them clarity on the combinations and that India will look to zero out the personnel in the coming months.
Confined to August, with just 12 days to go before the Asia Cup, India, from the outside, are still quite unsure of their squad composition. The deadline to name the provisional squad is September 5 and India will be hoping some fitness certificates pass and their top fast bowler, who has not played international cricket since September 2022, completes a 3-match T20I series in Ireland and prove his fitness.
For all the talk of “procedures” and not listening to “outside noise”, India, it’s safe to say, made a meal of their build-up in the event, which returns home for the first time in 12 years .
A look at the squads of India’s star players at the World Cup speaks volumes for their all-round ability and depth. On the other hand, India had a less-than-ideal run at the World Cup marred by injuries, dips in form and lack of versatility.
Shikhar Dhawan, one of India’s top 6 players from the 2019 World Cup final, was dropped a year before the World Cup. However, India failed to zero in on a left-hander at the top even though Ishan Kishan did well in limited opportunities. KL Rahul, who was penciled in for the No. 5 slot, suffered an unfortunate injury during IPL 2023 and has not played since.
INJURIES AN EXCUSE?
When India finally found someone reliable at No.4 in Shreyas Iyer, the Kolkata Knight Riders captain was out due to a recurring back injury during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. He underwent surgery and has not played since.
Both Shreyas and Rahul are racing against time to be fit for the Asia Cup campaign, having played mock matches at the National Cricket Academy. However, with the lack of game time under their belts, it will be a big risk to pick them both in the squad.
India must bear in mind the mistake they made in 2022 of bringing KL Rahul back from injury and inducting him straight into the Asia Cup squad. Rahul struggled to find fluency in the Asia Cup T20 and eventually failed in the World Cup.
As former coach Ravi Shastri pointed out, it may be too much to ask even of the two players who are set to return to action after a long injury layoff.
As we discussed on the Sledging Room podcast, India are far from preparing for the worst-case scenarios that have been the hallmark of World Cup-winning teams in the past.
COPIES MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
On the other hand, India’s backup options haven’t really put their hand up and delivered. Suryakumar Yadav, who was groomed for the middle-order role, has played 26 ODIs since the last World Cup and has scored just 511 runs at an average of 24 per innings. In his last 17 innings, Suryakumar has not scored more than fifty.
Sanju Samson’s case was a curious one. He has been a victim of a mix-up of forms as he has not had consistent opportunities despite averaging 55 in 13 matches since his ODI debut in 2021.
Two of India’s greatest match-winners in ODIs, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, have not had an ideal run in major tournaments. The big scores from the bats of Rohit and Kohli haven’t come on big stands or against high quality opposition.
The instability on the bowling front has had a ripple effect in the bowling combination as well. India have shown a tendency to bolster their batting order by playing the extra full-body at the expense of a match-winner like Yuzvendra Chahal, who warmed the benches in the recently concluded ODI series in the West Indies.
ZEALOUS OPPONENTS WHO GET IT RIGHT
On the other hand, defending champions England took the bold call to drop a certain Harry Brook, who has been making waves in international cricket. Although he has played only 3 ODIs so far, Brook’s impressive start to his Test career and exploits in T20 cricket have made him a tempting prospect for the World Cup in India, where he played IPL 2023 with SunRisers Hyderabad.
England were not desperate to rush their leading paceman, Jofra Archer, back from injury. Similarly, New Zealand have given several hints that they would not rush Kane Williamson’s return from injury during IPL 2023.
England had the luxury of going to Ben Stokes, who came out of retirement, to put himself in contention for a World Cup spot. Stokes hasn’t set the stage on fire in ODIs but his ability to step up to the biggest stages, as seen in the World Cup 4 years ago and the T20 World Cup last year, has made the England selectors look in his direction. .
Despite making the bold call, England look like a dynamic unit with as many as 5 top-quality comprehensive options in Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and David Willey.
Australia, on the other hand, went ahead and dropped Marnus Labuschange, who played 30 ODIs, the third most for Australia since the last World Cup. It was a big call, but Australia had enough firepower to accommodate a debutant and a rookie cyclist in their provisional squad.
South Africa, like England, have packed their squad with full backs and look like one of the more balanced ODI sides on paper with plenty of firepower across all 3 departments.
DEPARTMENTS RICH IN POTENTIAL POWER
England’s provisional World Cup squad
Bangs; Joe Root, Jason Roy, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan
All-rounders: Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, David Willey, Chris Woakes
Wicketkeeper: Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow
Bowlers: Reece Topley, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley, Mark Wood
Temporary Australia World Cup squad
Batters: David Warner, Steve Smith, Travis Head
All-rounders: Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Cameron Green, Aaron Hardy, Ashton Agar, Sean Abbott
Wicketkeepers? Alex Carey, Josh Inglis
Bowlers: Pat Cummins, Nathan Ellis, Josh Hazlewood, Tanveer Sangha, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
South Africa squad for England ODIs
Batters: Temba Bavuma, Dewald Brevis, Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Rassie van der Dussen
All-rounders: Marco Janssen, Wayne Parnell
Wicketkeepers: Quinton de Kock, Heinrich Klaasen, Tristan Stubbs
Bowlers: Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Sisanda Magala, Gerald Coetzee, Bjorn Fortuin, Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj
India may continue to perform wonders in the home World Cup, but questions must be raised about the disastrous build-up in cricket’s premier extravaganza. Pointing fingers at injury management (poor) and the inability to find a Yuvraj Singh-like middle order despite having 7 years under his belt does not reflect the mentality of a winning team.
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