After the end of the West Indies tour, the Indian cricket team’s next assignment will be the Ireland Tour, where the big and much-awaited return of star pacer Jasprit Bumrah will happen. Out of action since late last year, Bumrah’s performance will be closely watched as the Indian cricket team’s strategy for the Asia Cup 2023 and the ODI World Cup 2023 hinges on him. There are also many other areas that need urgent attention from the BCCI selectors when they sit for the team selection of the Asia Cup 2023.
The squad for the continental event will more or less settle the majority of the lineup for the 2023 World Cup team, which starts in the first week of October. India also plays Australia in an ODI series just ahead of the World Cup, but the team management may not want to leave it that late.
India captain Rohit Sharma recently mentioned that the problems with the middle-order remain. He also stated that it is not necessary for only experienced players to get a chance.
Top-Order and the Contingency Plan
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, and Virat Kohli look to be the top three as of now. Rohit and Kohli are the two most senior batters while Gill has grown in stature in the last year. Between Kohli (12,898 runs in 275 ODIs) and Rohit (9,837 runs in 244 ODIs), India has two absolute ODI run-machines. Gill is a youngster, and his recent form is not that great. So, will the selectors take their punt on any other option as a backup plan?
Wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan was tried in the top-order in the West Indies series and scored a decent amount of runs too. He is left-handed and brings another dimension to the game.
The Big No. 4 Conundrum
This has been India’s most shaky spot in the recent past. Prior to the 2019 World Cup, India had the same doubt. Ambati Rayudu was tried, but ultimately Vijay Shankar made the mark when the final squad was announced. This time the confusion is greater. Had Shreyas Iyer been fit and in form, he would have been the No. 1 choice for the role.
But he and KL Rahul, another likely contender for a spot in the squad, started match simulation only on Monday after lengthy injury recovery. Rahul had been opening for India but then lost his spot due to injury and poor form. They have the pedigree, but questions remain about their fitness and match readiness.
Wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson and rookie left-hander Tilak Varma are the two other options. Samson blew hot and cold in the West Indies tour, while Varma made a great early impression in his maiden India series. With Rohit saying that rookies can also be selected for the World Cup, Varma will most likely remain in the scheme of things for the next one and a half months of preparation ahead of the mega event. Suryakumar Yadav is also likely to get more chances. A T20 great, he himself admitted that his ODI form is nothing great. Still, with a lack of other options and his ability to give momentum in the latter part of the innings, Yadav is likely to get more chances.
This is not being talked about much, but one clear trend is that the Indian selectors may go with an all left-hander combination. Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav has shown the guile while the experience of Ravindra Jadeja is impossible to be ignored. The question is, on spinning tracks, if India decide to go with three spinners, who will that third spinner be?
Yuzvendra Chahal is the first name that comes to mind, but he was not tried at all in the ODI series against West Indies. Axar Patel is another option, and the Indian team did go with three left-arm spinners in the second ODI against West Indies.
The Pace Battery
If Bumrah shows that his fitness is up to the mark, then the equation is simple. He will return to lead the pace attack with Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj being the other options. Many greats have backed Umran Malik and his raw pace, but he has not been able to be disciplined with his bowling. That might work against him. Left-hander Arshdeep Singh is a better option. Also, with his left-arm pace, he brings in a variety.
Amidst such specialist pacers, Shardul Thakur is also capable of making a space for himself. He provides batting depth and can give breakthroughs too.
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