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Every time an Indian national squad is announced there is always controversy. Fans and experts alike question selections, express disappointment over someone missing out and there is conspiracy theories always floating around. The three squads announced for the Australian tour wasn’t immune to that either. But again the T20I squad garnered the most criticism. Lets look at the T20 squad and analyse the “Controversial”
picks in more detail.

Team India T20I squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain and wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The T20I squad garnered the most criticism and critique from the fans and experts alike. The biggest controversy or mystery is the omission of Rohit Sharma. Rohit has been absent from the Mumbai Indians playing XI for the past 3 games and also I am sure BCCI would have consulted the franchise medical staff before making the call. There is no way BCCI would omit their star limited overs player with hearsay or half baked information. There is a reason why Rohit hasn’t been picked for the tour. The fact that MI posted on social media about Rohit practicing after squad announcement is highly unprofessional as despite that he did not partake in an important clash against RCB last night. Considering there isn’t much time between the end of IPL and the beginning of the Australian tour, I feel the call was right.

The next controversy was with the omission of Rishabh Pant from the T20I side. I am a big fan of Rishabh but again I need to be objective about a player. Yes he is brilliant and yes he is very talented but lets look at his numbers just to stay little fair on the players picked. Pant has played 28 T20Is for India and has an average of 20 at a SR of 121. Not earth shattering numbers by any means. His IPL season this year so far has been mixed bag. He hasn’t been his belligerent best and has shown lack of form over the last year or so. Sanju Samson got a lot of criticism from experts for his lack of good FC scores but again we are talking about T20 games. Yes Sanju himself isn’t the most consistent or reliable but when Pant was given 28 games to prove himself, I feel we can at least give Samson 3 more games to show his mettle.

The other contentious spot in the squad was the selection of Varun Chakravarthy. Yes Varun is a reasonably unknown commodity and not many people rate him as a spinner. He has had a great season so far for KKR but again the argument is that there are better spinners available than Varun in India. Fair enough, the only other player who I thought could have been picked is Kuldeep Yadav as he has brilliant T20 numbers but again his bowling has been on the decline in LO formats over the last 18 months. Yes there is Ravi Bishnoi and Rahul Chahar but again I don’t see selection of a young spinner is that bad as it is made to be. It does seem like the selectors have picked him based on his IPL2020 performance but again that’s fine as both spinners I mentioned above is a future star and will be picked soon in the Indian XI. Yes Varun might not be the best spinner in India but again his selection isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. Krunal Pandya and Axar Patel compete directly with Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. They both are bowling all-rounders and Varun has been picked as a specialist bowler. Sundar and Jadeja have been very good in shorter formats and their bowling this IPL has been brilliant as well. Jadeja especially has been batting brilliantly for CSK. So I don’t see any controversy in their selection.

The one player who even I though should have been in the T20I squad is Suryakumar Yadav. He has been brilliant in IPL for years and it is strange that he does not get picked for the national side. He once again proved last night how amazing he is in this format and I hope that the selectors give him a chance soon in both the LO format. He is a deserving player and should have been part of this squad to Australia.

This is just a 16 member squad and not everyone can get into the XI. There have been few people preferred over the other and while we can argue the merit of others who haven’t been picked, we cannot deny the talent of the people who are in the squad. The rest of the squad is on the expected lines except for the return of Shikhar Dhawan at the top and the addition of Mayank Agarwal in T20 after his brilliant season for KXIP this year so far.

Overall I feel that even though the T20I squad hasn’t impressed everyone, the selectors haven’t done a horrible job as it is made out to be. They have picked the best available players on merit and I don’t see this as a disaster. Everyone might feel someone someone else would have been a better choice in the squad but again that would be in the hindsight.

The T20I and Test squads were announced by BCCI yesterday and while majority of the personnel were as expected there are some interesting selections in both formats. The biggest controversy though is the absence of Rohit Sharma. Rohit who has been missing in the last few games for Mumbai Indians has been left out sparking some speculation regarding the seriousness of his injury. MI management posting that Rohit is back in the nets and is getting ready to play the rest of the games has created some confusion regarding the the star batsman’s current condition.

BCCI though have mentioned that they will monitor his status and will take a call regarding his inclusion. The rest of the squad though had some interesting choices. Varun Chakravarthy who has had a brilliant IPL for KKR has been chosen as the spinner in the T20I squad in place of Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep hasn’t been at his best in shorter format for over a year now and him not getting enough chances for his franchise also might have played a part. The T20 squad already has Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. Hardik Pandya returns to the Indian squad after missing in action due to injury for a while. The rest of the pace attack for the shorter format remains on the expected lines with Navdeep Saini retaining his spot.

Mayank Agarwal gets a go in the T20 team after a stellar IPL2020 and Sanju Samson gets another chance ahead of Rishabh Pant as the lone wicketkeeper in the squad. While Rohit Sharma’s absence does leave a huge void in the squad Shikhar Dhawan returning to the top gives the team the much needed experience in the batting department. BCCI have gone with the performers from the ongoing IPL but again it will be interesting to see how they will perform in a tough Australian tour.

T20I Squad to Australia: Virat Kohli (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (VC & WK), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The ODI squad though is very similar to the T20 one. The biggest surprise though is KL Rahul being the lone wicket-keeper in the squad. Shubman Gill is back in the ODI squad and Mayank Agarwal retains his spot in the team. Prithvi Shaw who was part of the Indian ODI squad to New Zealand does not find a place this time and Kuldeep Yadav returns after being dropped from the T20 team. Shardul Thakur is back in the ODI team and this series also marks the return of Hardik Pandya in all three formats. Ravindra Jadeja retains his all-rounder spot and Yuzvendra Chahal is the other spinner in the ODI team. In the absence of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul doubles up as the deputy to Virat Kohli in the shorter formats on the tour to Australia.

India’s ODI squad to Australia:Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-captain & wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur

The Test team though has very less surprises. Rohit Sharma once again is absent from the squad which means that KL Rahul makes a come back as an opener. There is Pritvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal as well who mostly will be the first choice openers at the start. Shubman Gill also has been retained in the squad to provide another opening option. The spin department has the regular 3 spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. Ishant Sharma’s injury means Mohammad Siraj gets another opportunity in the Test team and Navdeep Saini retains his spot in the squad.

Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah round of a varied and good pace attack. India for sure will miss Ishant Sharma as he has been India’s best bowler over the last couple of years and has helped maintain pressure from one end consistently. Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane retain their middle order spots along with Hanuma Vihari who might play based on the team composition. Hardik Pandya also makes a return as a pace bowling all-rounder after missing in action due to injury.

While there are some controversial selections in the T20 and ODI squads the Test team except for the absence of Rohit Sharma probably is the best they could have done. Mohammad Siraj who has been one of the best domestic bowlers for India over the last few years gets another deserved chance and I hope he gets to play in the XI. The Australian series is scheduled immediately after the IPL and the Indian team will be short of practice in the longer format. It will be interesting how the team cope with this new normal and against a team which will be very tough to beat at home.

Test Squad for Australia: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohd. Siraj

Faf du Plessis returns as South Africa take on a very difficult assignment against a team who are chasing 11 consecutive home series win. South Africa’s last visit to India did not go well and their 3-0 loss was one of their worst performances in subcontinent conditions and possibly left many of their young players pretty scarred. The chief destroyers from the series Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be back in action for the Indian team and the pitches this time as well will be aiding spinners.

The South African team though will rely a lot on the batting of captain Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock. The rest of the batting though except for Aiden Markham are inexperienced in these conditions and will be hoping for lots of help from the experienced heads. The bowling attack will have the talented Keshav Maharaj and the fantastic Kagiso Rabada leading the attack. Vernon Philander is back to take the new ball giving South Africa a pretty well rounded bowling attack for the conditions.

For India though the opening combination is still an issue. Rohit Sharma will be taking up that mantle this time along with Mayank Agarwal. The middle order though has a settled look with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Hanuma Vihari who had a great West Indian tour will take the number 6 slot in the batting order. Rishabh Pant has been dropped owing to his poor performances in Tests recently which means Wriddhiman Saha makes a comeback to the Test side. Jasprit Bumrah’s stress fracture means that Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami will be the two lone Pacers in the XI. Jadeja and Ashwin as the spin bowling all rounders will complete the Indian bowling attack for the first Test.

Key Players:

Cheteshwar Pujara (India): Pujara was instrumental in India achieving the historic series win in Australia earlier this year. Even though he had a poor series in West Indies, his credentials as a very good player of spin makes him very important in home conditions. He averages 62 at home with more than 3000 runs and he once again will be crucial for India in this series.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India): Closing in on 350 Test wickets Ashwin will be back to being the lead spinner in home conditions. His record at home is exceptional with 234 wickets at 22.68 and he will once again be key for India on pitches which will for sure be helping spin.

Faf du Plessis (South Africa): In an inexperienced batting line up Faf will hold the key for South Africa’s chances. He has been on multiple tours to India and has most experience playing in these conditions and him having a good series will be crucial for his side on this tough tour.

Keshav Maharaj (South Africa): Maharaj was brilliant in Sri Lanka and bowled his heart out on yet another subcontinent loss for his side. He would want to bring all that experience onto this series to help his side against a very strong home batting line up. It will not be easy but Maharaj is extremely talented and will be leading the South African spin attack this series.

Probable XIs:

India XI: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami

South Africa XI: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi

What they said?

“I think the most amount of credit has to go to the team, because we, we lay down a vision in 2015, that, you know, we’re going to be flexible [with our combination]. We were going to choose sides according to the conditions that we’re playing in. Because we want results, we want to be successful as a team, and we want to be at the top of the world. So if the team hadn’t bought into it, then it becomes a little difficult for guys who started don’t start to, you know, play with the kind of intent that you played with.” Said captain Virat Kohli about the success of his team over the last few years

“If you look at our squad, there’s a hell lot of new faces from the last time. It could work in our favour in terms of the brand of cricket and positivity. Yes it may not go our way but we are here to compete. We are not going to lie down and back down with the sort of old woes from the last tour. And who knows, it could be our time, in the next three Test matches, to shock some people.” Said Keshav Maharaj ahead of the first Test

This will be South Africa’s start of the Test championship and they will be hoping to make a good start to their campaign. India who have already been to a flying start with 120 points would want to build on it and start of the home season with a bang. Even though the visitors are expected to give a better account of themselves this time around, the hosts are overwhelming favourites to win this series and it will be hard to bet against that result.

 

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Mumbai Indians will start as the favourites tonight in their crucial encounter against Chennai Super Kings

So after 56 games with 8 teams battling out for 4 spots in the play-offs, we are finally in the business end of the IPL 2019. Chennai Super Kings will take on Mumbai Indians in the first qualifier later today in the MA Chidambaram Stadium,Chennai. Mumbai Indians have been the team to beat this year. They have qualified at the top of the points table after the league stage and possibly have the best balanced side of the competition this year.

Their bowling has been brilliant throughout with Lasith Malinga and Jasprith Bumrah leading the attack and the batting has come to its own at the latter half of the tournament. Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav batted well and look in good form going into the play-off. They have beaten Chennai Super Kings in both the games this season and will start as favourites for tonight’s encounter. For CSK though the sailing hasn’t been as smooth. Despite being one of the top sides of the season, they haven’t quite performed as a team this season. Their batting has been a suspect and MS Dhoni has been the talisman who has dragged them to victories in some crucial games in the league stage.

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CSK will be hoping that their batters finally click in the all important game against MI tonight

Shane Watson except for the one innings has struggled and the rest have been inconsistent which makes their task much harder in the play-offs. The bowling though has done well especially at home with Imran Tahir being their chief wrecker. The biggest advantage though for CSK is that they are playing at home where they have been brilliant again this season. Their only loss though has come against Mumbai Indian whom they will be facing off in the play-offs tonight.

Key Players:

MS Dhoni (CSK) – There is no bigger player in the CSK camp at the moment than the captain himself. CSK have struggled in games when the captain has been absent and his performance on the field and the bat will be crucial for the success of the team. He so far has been brilliant and has scored 368 runs at an average of 122 with a brilliant SR of 139.92. He will for sure be the key player for the home side.

Imran Tahir (CSK) – Tahir has been the go to bowler for MS Dhoni throughout this season. He has been brilliant at home and in away games for CSK. He has been economical and has also picked up wickets at crucial moments for his side this season. He is currently second in the list of highest wicket takers this season with 21 wickets with a brilliant economy rate of just 6.5. On a slow Chennai pitch, he will be crucial in the middle overs.

Hardik Pandya (MI) – For MI this season, even though Quinton De Kock and Keiron Pollard have played some brilliant knocks, it has been Pandya who has been the X-Factor for them this season. He has scored 380 runs at a SR of 198 so far and will be crucial for them once again in the play-offs.

Lasith Malinga & Jasprith Bumrah (MI) – These two have been so brilliant this season with the ball that it is hard to separate them. Both Bumrah and Malinga have been hard to get away this season and they have also picked wickets at crucial stages through out. They have taken 32 wickets between them and have been fantastic at the death.

This game will be a cracker and both the teams playing tonight have won the IPL three times each. The advantage of finishing in the top 2 means, both these teams will get another crack at making the finals even if they lose tonight but that will be the last thing on their minds at the moment. Even though Mumbai Indians start as the favourites for this game, MS Dhoni & CSK cannot be written off in an important game like this. Don’t see many changes in the XI’s of both sides but due to injury, CSK have to look for replacement for Kedar Jadhav. For MI though they have been unlucky with the pace bowling stocks but for Chennai, they might need an additional spinner. They might bring back Mayank Markande in the XI for today.

 

India came into the Champions Trophy 2017 with a team that looked great on paper but was extremely low on match practice.

Rohit Sharma hadn’t played in an ODI game for India for about eight months. Yuvraj Singh was not in India’s one day scheme of things until England ODI series earlier this year where he played three games.

Shikhar Dhawan played in the England series earlier this year but was dropped for the third game after failing in the first two.

Dinesh Karthik who is India’s other middle order option hasn’t played an ODI game for India since 2014.

Kedar Jadhav who is a newbie in the middle order doesn’t have too much experience playing overseas. The only match practice any of these players had before the Champions Trophy was in the IPL.

Completely different format and conditions to what they would face in England.

The Indian team were banking on the return to form of Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh in particular. Yuvraj Singh gives India the much needed impetus in the later stages of the innings and Rohit Sharma lends solidity to the top order.

The last time India won the Champions Trophy in England in 2013, the opening partnership of Dhawan and Rohit did a stellar job.

The opening combination was little short on confidence and it showed in the way the batted in the first few overs. Both Rohit and Dhawan looked nervous at the start of the innings.

Rohit was beaten couple of times in the first over and Dhawan batted at a strike rate of 50 until about the fifth or sixth over. Both the batsmen understandably took their time in setting up a platform which helped Yuvraj, Kohli and Pandya to tee off in the final few overs.

Even though India would have been happy with the opening combination returning to form, the biggest relief for India would have been the return to form and fitness of Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj – as Kohli pointed out after the match – is a game changer.

There were lots of questions over his fitness and form ahead of the game and the genial south paw answered his critics in the best way possible. Yuvraj played one of the most important innings for himself and for the team’s confidence in the tournament.

Yuvraj Singh plays in the crucial position for India in ODI and his returning to form gives huge boost to India’s chances.

Even though Indian bowling is very good this time around, the batting always gives them the confidence in the major tournaments. India began their defence of the title with lots of question marks around the team selection and the batting form of some of their players but after the first game, India has ticked lots of the boxes.

A firing batting unit is crucial for India’s campaign and the first game has shown that all is well in that regard for team India.

My Original Article @The Roar

India have had a great start to their Champions trophy campaign. They won both their warm-up games with ease and they would be particularly pleased with the way the pace attack has performed.

The batting, however, was a mixed bag. India came into the tournament with an idea of who they would like to play in the XI, but after the warm-up games things have become little muddled.

Shikhar Dhawan has done enough to book his place in the XI, opening the batting with Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli showed glimpses of him returning form against New Zealand – even though the innings was really scratchy, he would have appreciated the time spent in the middle. MS Dhoni’s position in the team is not in question as he batted reasonably well in the one game he played and kept wickets brilliantly.

Ajinkya Rahane’s twin failure means that he will not feature in the XI for the first game against Pakistan. But now comes the interesting part: India played Dinesh Karthik in both their warm-up games and Yuvraj did not bat in either. Dinesh Karthik scored a brilliant 94 in the Game 2 against Bangladesh and Virat Kohli hinted in the post-match conversation that he would like to give Karthik a longer run in the team.

The position of Yuvraj Singh remains unclear, however. Is Yuvraj not fully fit? If that is the case, his selection was a blunder by the selection committee. Kedar Jadhav played pretty well for his 30-odd against Bangladesh and so did Hardik Pandya, so it will be interesting to see which way the management will go in terms of the batting.

The selection of the bowling attack isn’t that simple either. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done extremely well in both the games and for sure will take the new ball. Shami and Yadav both have done well in the chances they received, but I am not sure the team has a place for both of them. It will be a toss-up between Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav. Jasprit Bumrah will for sure play as the third seamer as he has been India’s best bowler in the shorter formats over the past year.

Complete Article at The Roar.

India has never played a bilateral ODI series in Australia before, so this will be a new experience for the Indian team. The Australian team is always difficult to beat at home and India traditionally hasn’t done well in Australia. The Australian team is the current world champion and it will take a huge effort by this young Indian team to compete in this series.

The Indian team is young but has a seasoned leader in MS Dhoni. This tour will be a new experience for the youngsters in the team and they will be under spot light throughout the tour. Let us look at the Indian ODI squad for picked for this series:

ODI squad: MS Dhoni (capt), R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Barinder Sran

There are some new faces in the squad and with Shami’s injury Ishant and Umesh will be expected to lead the pace attack. The batting will depend on the experience of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. Ajinkya Rahane who has been in great form will also be expected to contribute in the middle order for the team. With 5 batting spots already taken there are two open spots in the middle/lower order ODI series. One spot is for sure going to an all-rounder. The front runner for that spot should be Rishi Dhawan. Rishi Dhawan has done well in the practice games ahead of the series and has some experience playing in Australia representing the emerging players X1 for India. He is expected to get a look in in the first ODI. The number 6 batting slot will be a tossup between Manish Pandey and Gurkeerat Singh.

Manish Pandey batted brilliantly in the warm up game and also is a brilliant fielder. Gurkeerat Singh also is a very good young player and he offers India with an option of an additional spin bowling option. So this will be an interesting decision. Also it will be interesting to see if India will go with 2 bowling all-rounder option with Ravi Jadeja and Rishi Dhawan. Ashwin will most probably be India’s lone spinner for the first ODI and with injury to Mohammed Shami, Ishant and Umesh are most likely options to take the new ball. If India opts to go for 3 pace bowling option then Barinder Sran is most likely going to make his international debut at WACA.

This is going to be an interesting series for India and the young players will be under pressure to perform and make an impact. Gurkeerat Singh and Manish Pandey have been waiting in the wings for some time now to make it to the ODI X1 and this will be a perfect launch pad for them to stake their claim. MS Dhoni would be hoping that India can turn their ODI fortunes around at the start of 2016 and his leadership will play a crucial part in this series. The experienced top order will be expected to make consistent contributions if India is going to push Australia in both ODI and T20 series. Below is the likely X1 for the first ODI at the WACA. I am expecting Jadeja and Axar to miss out from the X1. I don’t think the Indian team is going to play two spinners at the WACA. The closest tossup will be between Gurkeerat Singh and Manish Pandey but I think Gurkeerat might get the nod as he is a decent spinner as well.

Indian X1 for First ODI (Likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey/Gurkeerat Singh, MS Dhoni (capt), Rishi Dhawan, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Barinder Sran

Even though this will be a tough series for the young team, I expect them to give a good account of themselves and may be even win the series with contributions from the senior players.

Virat Kohli has been vocal about the 5 bowler strategy since he took over the test captaincy in Australia. India tried Harbhajan as the 5th bowler in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hoping that Ashwin, Mishra and Harbhajan can compensate for the 7th batsmen in the team. The biggest problem for India though is that they haven’t found a reliable bowling all-rounder yet to successfully incorporate the 5 bowler strategy.

The other problem the team management will face is the batting combination. It is clear that the team think tank supports the selection of Rohit Sharma in the X1, but with the arrival of Pujara the debate begins once again. Rohit played at number 5 in the second and third tests in Sri Lanka and did reasonably okay at that spot. It is certain that Murali Vijay and Shikar Dhawan will reclaim their spots as the openers in the first test against SA which will push Pujara to number 3 in the order. Virat Kohli will bat at number 4 and Rahane at number 5.

This makes the selection very interesting. Considering Indian think tank still wants to employ 5 bowlers strategy that leaves only one spot open which will be taken by a wicketkeeper. So it will be interesting as to what combination India will play in the first test. The selection of Rohit Sharma is just one end of the stick. The other issue which India will face is getting a bowling all-rounder to occupy the number 7 spot if at all they decide to go with 5 bowlers.

India employed Stuart Binny for the last 2 tests in Sri Lanka. Binny did okay in those games but again he will not be that effective on Indian pitches. He might score some runs but his bowling will not be that effective on pitches which will be aiding spinners in all probability. In Indian conditions the team would need a spin bowling all-rounder to occupy the number 7 spot. India already has Ravichandran Ashwin who is a decent bowling all-rounder and Amit Mishra showed that he can handle the bat competently to score some useful runs down the order. Now the options for a spin bowling all-rounder is minimal.

Couple of years back Ravindra Jadeja was a certainty in the Indian team but his form has gone south in the last couple of years. His performance in the one off game against Bangladesh A was nothing to write home about. The other option India has is Karn Sharma. Karn’s performance in Adelaide on a turning track does not inspire much confidence on his test match bowling ability. His batting too wasn’t too flash in that game. The last and final option India has is Axar Patel. Axar has done well for India in limited opportunities he has received in the shorter formats but his credentials as a test match bowler is questionable.

So considering the above options for the 5th bowler, it will be interesting to see if India does decide to go with the 5 bowler option at all for the tests against SA. The return of the injured players and the arrival of Pujara back in to the X1 leaves the think tank with more headaches than they could handle. The batting combination needs to be worked out and the decision of Pujara or Rohit needs to be made ahead of the first test. This could also mean that India could ditch the 5 bowler strategy and play both Pujara and Rohit in the X1. If they decide to drop Rohit and play an all-rounder, it will be interesting to see whom they will pick. There are plenty of things to worry about for the Indian think tank ahead of the test series against South Africa. It will be interesting to see what combination Kohli & Co will go for in the test series.

The one off test between India and Bangladesh saw some interesting selections by the Indian think tank. Not all selections were popular ones but again there were some good signs nevertheless. Shikhar Dhawan’s selection was kind of forced as KL Rahul fell ill ahead of the test match. The 5 bowler strategy is something which Virat Kohli wants to implement consistently over the next couple of years but again he needs to make sure he picks the right 5 bowlers to do the job in tests.

The strategy might even work to his advantage as India does not play outside subcontinent for some time now. The other thing which was evident was that Virat Kohli prefers genuine quick bowlers over swing bowlers. He played both Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron in the same game along with Ishant Sharma. The test itself was marred by rain and we barely got 2 days of test cricket out of 5, so it was difficult to determine if this combination will actually be successful in the long run. Also it will be interesting to see whom Mohammed Shami will replace when he is fit again.

With Kohli and the think tank wanting to go with 5 bowler strategy, it puts lots of emphasis on a strong wicketkeeper batsman. India has Ravi Ashwin coming in at number 7 and the batting to follow after him might not be too reliable. For this strategy to work Wridhiman Saha needs to click as a batsman. We all know that Saha is one of the best wicketkeepers in India but again if he does not score runs with the bat, India might have to look elsewhere. The other selection which needs to be looked at is the second spinner for the subcontinent games.

Ravi Ashwin is India’s primary spin bowler but his partner is something which the Indian think tank is undecided on. Previously Pragyan Ojha was the one for the home tests but after his action was reported, he does not look the same bowler with the corrected action. Harbajan Singh was picked for the Bangladesh test but again he cannot be in India’s long term plans. Bajji looked out of sorts and struggled to match Ashwin with the ball. He did pick up three wickets but again those were gifted by some very daft batting by Bangladesh batsmen. It will be prudent for the Indian think tank to think in terms of blooding a young spinner to bowl alongside Ashwin in the home tests.

There are some suggestions to bring back Amit Mishra which is not a bad idea either but again Mishra has struggled in test matches even at home. It will be interesting if India actually picks some young spinner for the home tests, someone like Shreya Gopal. Shreyas Gopal has a good bowling record in first class cricket and can bat well too. This will help India in the 6-5 combination which they are planning to employ in tests.

India needs to somehow incorporate KL Rahul and Pujara in their test plan. Kohli seems to prefer Rohit Sharma ahead of Pujara in tests but again Pujara is more likely to succeed overseas. The selection of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma seems shortsighted and may not benefit India in the long run. Both Dhawan and Rohit are extremely good at home and on subcontinent pitches but again when it comes to overseas tests Pujara and Rahul are much more capable. It will be interesting to see what combinations Kohli will come up with in the upcoming series with Sri Lanka and South Africa.

India does tour Zimbabwe next for an ODI and T20 series and it will be the right time to introduce some young players in the team. India also needs to give a chance to players like Kedar Jadhav and Robin Uthappa. It will also be interesting if they would experiment with the bowling. Chahal comes to mind as an option in the shorter format. Virat Kohli has stuck with Karn Sharma but again he does not look like a test bowler.

These are exciting times for Indian cricket and we can expect some interesting selections in coming months. Virat Kohli needs to realize that in the longer run the idea is to make Indian cricket team more competitive overseas. Even though horses for courses selection seems good at the moment it will be detrimental to Indian cricket development in the long run. Players like KL Rahul and Pujara need to be in the mix if India needs to develop a team for all conditions. In the coming months we will know what the plan is by the current team management. Even though Dhawan needs to be persisted with as he provides an attacking option at the top of the order, India needs to make sure KL Rahul is somewhere in the mix and is not neglected. The same goes for Pujara. Virat Kohli has lots of tough decisions to make in the coming months. He does have the right attitude as a captain and has an attacking mindset but again he needs to pick the right people for the job for the team to be successful consistently.

The Indian team hasn’t had a great start to the ODI Tri-Series. After losing a hard fought game to Australia in the opener, they have been hammered by England in the second game. While the first game was marred by poor lower order batting, the second game had a complete batting failure.

With the World cup just a month away India seem to be having a boat load of issues with the team combination. Let us look at the problem areas for the team ahead of the marquee tournament.

The Openers:

India played 2 different combinations in the first two games and Shikhar Dhawan has struggled to score in both those games. After an underwhelming test series with the bat Dhawan seems to be struggling to put bat to ball in his favorite format of the game. It seems like India needs to take the harsh decision and give the Rohit/Rahane combination a chance in the remaining games. Rohit scored a hundred in the first game and Rahane looked good in the second before throwing his wicket away to a poor shot. The opening combination is the most important thing in Australia/New Zealand and it can make or break a team. India need to decide on what combination they are planning to field in the world cup and play that duo in the upcoming games in the tri-series and in the warm up games leading to the world cup.

 The Middle Order:

India has experimented quite a lot in this area as well. Virat Kohli who was India’s permanent fixture at number 3 has been pushed to number 4 for some strange reason. Ambati Rayudu was used at number 3 at the Gabba. Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni complete the Indian middle order. Virat Kohli should bat at 3 in all games, as he is India’s best ODI player. Suresh Raina will bat at 5 followed by MS Dhoni at 6. So that leaves Ambati Rayudu at number 4. The positions of Raina and Rayudu can be changed based on the team situation but India ideally should play Kohli at 3 and Rayudu at 4. India does not have too much room for experimentation in this regard as they haven’t picked another middle order batsman. Rahane who can double as a middle order batsman may have to open since Dhawan hasn’t been scoring any runs.

The All-rounders:

This is a very interesting spot for the Indian team. India has picked potentially 4 all-rounders. 3 of them are spin bowling all-rounders and one a medium pace all-rounder. It will be interesting to see which combination India will play at the world cup. Stuart Binny did a decent job in the game at Gabba scoring 44 runs with the bat and picking up the only wicket to fall. Once Ravi Jadeja is fit, I don’t think India will be playing Akshar Patel in the X1. The tussle for the one spin all-rounder will be between Jadeja and Ashwin. India might play both of them in venues which might have some help for the spinners and play one of them in the combination of Binny in the other venues. Jadeja has been Dhoni’s go to man in ODI’s, so it will be fair to assume that he will be India’s first choice spinner in the world cup.

The Bowling:

This will be the most talked about combination for India ahead of the world cup. Looking at the squad selected for the world cup, it is pretty hard to imagine how India is going to take 10 wickets in the game. The bowlers as seen in the test matches don’t have any control over the scoring with the new ball, which is going to be crucial in the world cup. Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami haven’t been the most economical bowlers for India and haven’t been that effective with the new ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has struggled in Australia and hasn’t been able to pick up too many wickets. This leaves just Ishant who hasn’t played in the on-going tri-series due to an injury and might not take part in the rest of the series as well. This will mean that India will struggle to find the right bowling combination for the world cup. Ideally India should play Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant and Shami/Umesh. India cannot play both Shami and Umesh in the X1. Even though Ishant and Bhuvneshwar might not get you too many wickets, they can at least give you some much needed control with the new ball building up some pressure. Shami is good with the old ball which might help Dhoni to keep him for the middle and later overs.

So all in all it does look like a very tall order for the Indians to defend the world cup in Australia and New Zealand. The Indian bowling has relied a lot on spinners over the last year or so but in Australia/New Zealand they wouldn’t be that effective. India did not pick a wrist spinner in their squad which might work against them in the world cup. The batting too looks unsettled and with players looking out of form. Things do not look great for Dhoni and Fletcher ahead of the world cup at this point. India needs to decide on their best X1 in the upcoming couple of games as they don’t have too much room to experiment anyways with the World Cup Squad. The non-selection of an additional middle order bat and an additional pacer might work against the team in the world cup.

Below is my X1 for the world cup. The below X1 is the best combination I feel India can put up from the squad selected for the world cup.

India X1 (WC): Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli (VC), Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (C, WKT), Stuart Binny, Ravi Ashwin/Ravi Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami


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