The Indian cricket team can finally start preparing for the Champions Trophy with a clear mind as the national selectors met in Delhi on Monday to name a 15-man squad after the BCCI decided to negotiate its dispute with the ICC via other routes than pulling out of the tournament.
In the opener’s slot, Rohit Sharma walked into the side after a lengthy injury break of four months. Shikhar Dhawan has been backed after an indifferent run of form in ODI cricket owing to his experience and performance in the last edition of the Champions Trophy and unavailability of KL Rahul who is nursing a shoulder injury. Ajinkya Rahane is the third opening option in the squad.
With Virat Kohli leading the side and most probably batting at no.3, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, and Manish Pandey form the middle order choices of the team with Pandey being the backup option. Either Kedar Jadhav or Hardik Pandya will have to shoulder the responsibility of playing the finisher’s role with MS clearly expressing the desire to bat up the order since a while now.
With not much assistance for spin in English conditions, the selectors have gone in with just two spin bowling options of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Although, the team management under Kumble has implemented a strict rule for injured players to perform in the domestic circuit to prove their fitness before making a comeback, Ashwin and Rohit Sharma prove to be exceptions to this rule owing to their talent and the situation at hand.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, and Umesh Yadav fill in the pace bowling department on the back of consistent performances since the past year in more than one format of the game. Mohammed Shami who last played an ODI for India in the World Cup of 2015 returns to the squad after playing a few matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and IPL. Hardik Pandya’s role in the team might also prove to be crucial as he is the only seam bowling all-rounder in the team.
Rishabh Pant, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Shardul Thakur and Kuldeep Yadav have been placed on stand by and will train at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru during the period of the tournament and will be flown to England if replacements are required.
It will be interesting to see the team combination for the playing XI especially in the bowling department as India generally tend to play two spinners but conditions in England might render the second spinner a liability. Also, whether the team goes for 5 full time bowlers or carry an extra bowling option in the form of Hardik Pandya sacrificing a pure batsman which likely would be Jadhav, will be one of the tricky questions the team management will have to quickly assess in the warm up games. The batting order picks itself with Sharma, Kohli, Yuvraj, and Dhoni barring a toss-up between Rahane and Dhawan for the opening slot.
India are set to begin their title defence on June 4 in a mouth watering clash against Pakistan at Edgbaston.
The full list of the 15-man squad is as follows:
Virat Kohli(c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami