Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and some of the other big names in Indian cricket are all busy leading their respective franchises in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).
While most of the seniors will not be fretting over it, a number World Cup hopefuls as well as fringe players will be waiting for the big announcement by the MSK Prasad-led selection panel on 15 April, that of the final squad for the mega event that takes place later this summer in England and Wales.
The core of the Indian side that will attempt to win the World Cup for a third time is a settled one, comprising skipper Kohli, vice-captain Rohit, wicket-keeper-batsman Dhoni as well as other leading names such as Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, etc. There has been a tussle over some of the other spots though, most notably the No 4 spot in the batting order, choosing between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik as Dhoni's backup among others.
We got some of the leading cricket writers, aside from two in-house entries, to pick their squad for the 2019 edition of the World Cup. Take a look:
Snehal Pradhan, former India cricketer and freelance journalist
Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli, and?
When I picked my World Cup squad when there were about 100 days left to the World Cup, Vijay Shankar wasn’t in it. Ambati Rayudu had taken the No 4 slot, KL Rahul was my backup batter, and Rishabh Pant was a part of the side. Some of that has changed.
Rayudu no longer makes my XI, and perhaps the scrutiny over the No 4 slot in the months leading up to the World Cup have weighed him down, which is unfortunate. He has been the pace-setter in the race, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that matters.
On the other hand, Shankar entered the race with zero expectations, and is now in pole position. He is my pick for No 4, because he has barged in the old fashioned way: Forcing people to take notice because of the quantity and quality of his runs, as well as the opposition and conditions he has scored them against. His fluency and versatility has consigned his bowling to a useful footnote. One question remains: Is his success down to the fact that no one expected him to succeed? And in that case, how will he do once the focus shift squarely on him in England.
The backup batter in my side is Rahul, which means Rayudu doesn’t make the 15. And at age 33, this might be the end of his India career. Rahul’s ability to serve as backup to any of the top five pushes him ahead.
In my view, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya are both invaluable because of their specialist and supplementary skills and walk into the XI. I expect Jadhav’s bowling to outdo his very capable batting, and Pandya’s bowling is a bonus to his big hitting. Between them, they promise 10 good overs, both with the bat and ball. The two also complement each other well; Jadhav’s eccentric bowling makes up for Pandya’s standard seamers, and Pandya’s athleticism adds as much as Jadhav’s fielding competence subtracts.
The five bowlers are the easiest picks, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar make my XI, with Mohammed Shami breathing down their necks. But I believe the Indian team needs a backup spinner as well, and that’s why Ravindra Jadeja makes my squad, despite not being picked for the series against Australia. With my middle order settled, Dinesh Karthik is pipped by Pant as my second ‘keeper. I don’t think Pant will get a game unless there is an injury, or a crisis in the middle order and the Indian team are desperate to do something different.
My XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah,
Reserves: Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul, Rishab Pant.
Ayaz Memon, senior journalist
It’s just about a week to finalising India’s World Cup squad, but suspense over a couple of places lingers. Who will fill the two remaining places remains unanswered because there haven’t been thoroughly convincing performances by those in the running.
The two places open are essentially in the top order. This is a tad ironical. A year back in South Africa with Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu in sterling form, it appeared India’s batting for the World Cup was settled.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride after that. Rahane lost his place in the squad, Rahul lost his place in the team for an off-field misdemeanour and subsequently confidence too, and Rayudu suddenly lost form in the past couple of months.
India’s batting since the ODI series Down Under has been inconsistent. The home series was lost 2-3 after being 2-0 ahead and experiments haven’t clicked. Worse, established players like Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan too hit a sort of trough, making the batting look highly vulnerable.
Of two batting slots available, one is as understudy to MS Dhoni. Rishabh Pant versus Dinesh Karthik is a straight face-off here. But the other batting place has several claimants: Rayudu, Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and perhaps the reserve ‘keepers mentioned above!
There could have been a case for including an extra pace bowler for the World Cup as a back-up against any of the mainstays breaking down, but in the circumstances the selectors and team management would rather hedge on the batting.
In any case, the bowling department is well-served in both pace and spin. The fast bowlers pick themselves after superb performances all of last year, as do the two wrist-spinners.
Interestingly, Jadeja, who was out of the squad, forced himself into the reckoning by delivering what’s expected of him almost every time. He can also bat and is easily India’s outstanding fielder.
The return of all rounder Hardik Pandya fully fit gives a cutting edge to both departments. Vijay Shankar (pace) and Kedar Jadhav (spin) can fill in a few overs every now and then.
Here’s my pick for the World Cup. I’m undecided between Rahul, in whom so much has been invested, and Agarwal, who has been in glorious touch in the last six-eight months in all formats.
Squad: Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay Shankar, Mayank Agarwal/K L Rahul, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah.
Vedam Jaishankar, senior journalist
The invaluable experience of having played in England over the past year or two and thus being acquainted with English conditions should be a major criterion for selection into India’s World Cup squad. The players should have been part of the senior national team or should have at least represented India A during their tour of England last year.
If nothing else they would be aware of the fickleness of English weather and also peculiarities of their cricket grounds where tradition, rather than standardisation, is the norm. They could thus take the field knowing what to expect instead of learning along the way.
This apart, a vexing issue that has dogged selectors this past year has been the choice of the ideal number four. The fact that they have not been able to identify one is a boon. That spot should go to the team’s best batsman, Virat Kohli.
For starters it would give him reasonable protection from the swing and seam movement expected from two new balls (one from either end) and also enable him to gauge the character of the pitch while the openers and number three go about their business.
Ideally, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul should occupy the first three positions, with either Rohit or Rahul having the flexibility of batting at one drop.
Rishabh Pant who has enjoyed considerable success in England with India A team as well as the senior team, should be chosen as a pure batsman with Dinesh Karthik doubling up as second wicket-keeper-cum-reserve batsman.
The advantage of having MS Dhoni and Karthik in the squad is that both are front-line batsmen. This erases the need to carry an extra batsman and hence the team could have the luxury of travelling with a full complement of pace and spin bowlers.
The onus while fielding would be on middle-overs bowling, between the 11th and the 40th over when only four fielders are permitted outside the ring. India’s strategy in recent years has been to attack during this phase through wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. While there is some debate whether this approach would pay dividends in the early part of the English summer, it must be pointed out that the duo is a proven combination and that India’s league matches stretch from 5 June to 6 July. The two spinners could come in handy during the second half of the campaign.
The fast bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, along with all rounder Hardik Pandya select themselves. There should also be a slot for Umesh Yadav. His pace, swing and experience would come in handy if one the fast bowlers have to be rested.
In effect that should take care of seven batsmen (Rohit, Dhawan, Rahul, Kohli, Pant, Dhoni, Karthik) and seven bowlers (Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Shami, Hardik, Umesh, Kuldeep, Chahal). At least three of the batsmen can keep wickets while Hardik can also be a very useful number seven batsman.
The dilemma is over the 15th spot: Do you go in for a batsman who bowls spin (Kedar Jadav) or one who bowls medium pace (Vijay Shankar or settle for a third spinner (Ravindra Jadeja)?
Jadeja may be good on crumbling Indian pitches. But his flat, defensive bowling may not be suited for English conditions. He is not a frontline batsman and carrying him only for fielding would be too much of a luxury.
Of the other two, Kedar is the better batsman but Shankar scores over him in running between wickets and fielding. English conditions would also favour Shankar’s bowling more than Kedar’s. Thus the older Kedar would have to sit this one out.
Dark horse: Prasidh Krishna or Navdeep Saini for fast bowling; Jadeja for spin bowling and Mayank Agarwal for batting.
The team: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (captain), MS Dhoni, Rishab Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
G Rajaraman, senior journalist
I believe the players in the Indian team picks themselves. More or less. For months now, the selectors have persisted with a set of players and got them to get set for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales. It is most unlikely that they will go back on some of their decisions.
The openers, big match players both, are an automatic choice. There cannot be a better combination of bowlers with Jaspit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav emerging as match winners in their own right. Hardik Pandya’s arrival has given a sense of balance to the team. And above all, there are Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.
Given the inconsistency of the middle-order in comparison to the top-order, I would love to see Kohli bat at No 4 so that the vast experience at the disposal of the team is all not used up at the top-order. It would make sense for India to have KL Rahul, who has been striking the ball well, at one-drop after the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
If there is any debate, it would be around whether Ravindra Jadeja deserves a place ahead of specialists like Ambati Rayudu, Umesh Yadav and Shreyas Iyer. Of course, he does. It is a bonus that there is no better all-round fielder than him, but he bowls his left-arm spin most economically and quickly. On drier pitches, he would be quite useful in stemming the flow of runs.
Here is my selection of the Indian team for the World Cup 2019: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (captain), MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Now, is that a good enough combination to win the World Cup? It most certainly is. It is just a question of ensuring that the squad clicks as a unit on every big day of the tournament. If India can play to potential, there is no reason why this team cannot emulate Kapil Dev’s team of 1983 and Dhoni’s class of 2011 in winning the big-ticket event.
It may be prudent of India to pick Iyer, Umesh, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik as reserves and have them in a state of readiness by being located in England (or in the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru) during the long tournament, should any of them be roped in because of illness or injury to a player in the squad.
Jigar Mehta, News Editor (Sports), Firstpost
It's that time of the year when both fans and pundits are busy with their permutations and combinations. There are nervous times for the players as well, especially the fringe players who are waiting anxiously to book their ticket to World Cup.
For me, 11 players pick themselves in the squad. The remaining four places have been a topic of debate. I have gone with Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul.
The No 4 conundrum is the biggest worry India is facing and I am going for MS Dhoni at No 4, considering his change in approach over the years. I have opted for Pant over Dinesh Karthik because of the x-factor be brings in. He will be a back-up to Dhoni and in case a batsman is horribly out of form or India require something different to make an impact, Pant could be slotted in because he has the ability to make the difference.
The conditions and pitches in England have undergone a change over the years and there is a chance the conditions might be humid and dry this summer. That has prompted me to get in an extra spinner in Ravindra Jadeja. He has had decent success in England, and his fielding makes his case equally stronger. If one of Yuzvendra Chalal or Kuldeep Yadav struggle to hit form, Jadeja can slot in directly.
Shankar is my back-up to Hardik Pandya. He gets into the squad because of his versatility and partly because of Ambati Rayudu's inconsistency.
Rahul too brings in that versatility where he can open, come one down and also keep wickets if required. He has been in good form of late. In case the middle order struggles or the openers don't click, he can slot in at No 3 with Kohli moving down, or open the batting.
Here's my squad:
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant
Vaibhav Shah, Sub-Editor (Sports), Firstpost
Big stakes are often separated by small margins and it holds true while penning down 15 members forming the Indian squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.
One of the two clear favourites, India, have an almost fixed playing XI. India’s top three – Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – oozes class and consistency. As a batting collective, failure for them is seldom and over the last four years, they have been the cornerstone of India’s ascendancy in ODI cricket.
If two out of the three bat till the 30th over or if one of the three bats till the 40th over, India is bound to find themselves in an extremely strong position.
However, for a rainy day, as the one arrived during the Champions Trophy final, I would prefer MS Dhoni at number four.
Battle-hardened MSD, whose cool demeanour and nerveless composure is ideal for orchestrating calm in times of crisis and chaos. Experience aplenty, Dhoni possesses big match nous, which is indispensable in a tournament like a World Cup.
Having said that, if there isn’t a top-order collapse then Ambati Rayudu, who has the ability to rebuild an innings and also alter the pace of the game, fits in well at number four.
Selectors, too, seem to have entrusted Rayudu with the role, having made him play at number four in 14 innings – the most by any of the 11 contenders – since Champions Trophy 2017.
Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya take the five, six and seven spots respectively.
Three frontline pacers in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, too, have locked their places. The left-arm wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav is a no-brainer.
A tournament that spills into almost seven weeks is unlikely to be won by just 11 players and hence the four players in the squad become extremely important.
Dinesh Karthik pips Rishabh Pant as the backup wicket-keeper in my squad. Pant not seizing his chances in the given opportunities for India dents his case further. While Karthik’s experience of having played in England and his adaptability of playing at number four or six gains him the nod.
Vijay Shankar’s impressive batting in New Zealand and productive performances against Australia merits him a ticket to England. Vijay, too, offers the dual option of replacing Pandya, in case of injury or loss of form, and a viable option at number four.
Yuzvendra Chahal too makes the squad as the second spinner and his inclusion in the playing XI is conditions and opponent dependent. Likewise for Ravindra Jadeja, who completes my 15-member squad. Since his return to the national side during the Asia Cup last year, the left-arm spinner has put up some neat performances with his pinpoint and prudent bowling that could work well in tandem with Kuldeep. It would be a great travesty if his almost faultless fielding isn’t reiterated as his virtues.
Here is my 15-member Indian squad for the World Cup: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Vijay Shankar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja.