Former India cricketer Ajit Agarkar, acknowledged the fact that the situation has swung in favour of KL Rahul after his century in the India-Bangladesh warm-up match, even though one innings does not necessarily block the spot for other hopefuls in the squad.
Mumbai: There have been several positives for the Indian team after their comprehensive victory over Bangladesh in their second warm-up fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, one of which was KL Rahul's 94-ball ton batting at the heavily-debated No 4 spot.
That spot, which until a few months ago seemed to have been secured by Ambati Rayudu before he got snubbed by the selection panel, looks set to be occupied by Rahul after his century, in which he forged a 164-run fifth-wicket stand with fellow centurion MS Dhoni. Rahul's innings couldn't have been a better timed one given that the opener's slot is well out of his grasp and he would have had to pull off an innings of note in order to get the team management's attention.
Former India cricketer Ajit Agarkar, too acknowledged the fact that the situation has swung in favour of the Karnataka batsman even though one innings does not necessarily block the spot for other hopefuls in the squad.
"One innings shouldn't decide somebody's fate or should not write somebody off. I mean I had picked (Vijay) Shankar as my No 4 in the XI that I had picked a few weeks back. Looks like this innings is going to change that. I mean Virat anyway likes KL Rahul, he's a fabulous player anyway. Whether he can do it at No 4, we don't quite know," Agarkar told reporters on the sidelines of an event organised by ESPN to inaugurate it's second multi-functional sports space, at Dharavi in Mumbai. Agarkar was present at the event along with fellow ex-cricketers Murali Karthik and Daren Ganga.
"Whatever runs he's got at the international level usually have been at the top of the order. It's a different position to bat. The good thing is he's got runs, so there's a bit of form behind him. So even if they go that way, it may not be the worst thing considering he's got runs," added the former India fast bowler.
Agarkar, one of India's leading all-time wicket-takers in the ODI format with 288 wickets to his credit, singled out the bowling unit as a well-balanced and a potentially match-winning one. With Jasprit Bumrah as the pace spearhead as well as two wrist spinners in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, the current Indian bowling unit is often regarded as one of the best India has ever had, especially in the World Cup.
"You've seen what (Jasprit) Bumrah does. He rarely has a bad day, which is such a plus. (Mohammed) Shami I think should play ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar at this point, if they go two between the three. I think he's in better bowling form and Hardik Pandya's the third (seamer).
"So very potent. Just the balance, the all-round attack; if you look at the wrist-spin option, or if you play a finger spinner, there is a lot of variety in the attack. The only thing probably missing is a left-arm seamer, but I think Bumrah's quality more than makes up for most things.
"At the moment, they look in good shape. Fitness is not an issue, which is a real positive after a long IPL. And they've still got another four-five days before they play their first game. Very few weaknesses in this team, if at all," added the ex-Mumbai cricketer.
Cricketer-turned-commentator Ganga felt that the current West Indies side can be considered dark horses going into the event that starts on 30 May. The West Indian side have been on the rise of late, with the team beating England in a three-Test series at home before drawing level in the one-dayers 2-2. The Jason Holder-led team registered a 91-run win over New Zealand in their second warm-up fixture, posting a humongous 421-run total on the board after being put in to bat.
"West Indies could be considered dark horses in terms of their performances in one-day cricket over the last year and a half. This is a huge test for them, not having a huge expectation may be a blessing in disguise as they go into this World Cup.
"I've said it before that it will be a team that will surprise many of the opposition teams in this tournament, not because I'm West Indian. I think from what I've seen, the camaraderie, from what is happening behind the scenes, I think they potentially can get into that top four, but they are strong contenders there as well," said Ganga.
The veteran of 48 Tests and 35 ODIs added that West Indies' strength lay in their batting unit, as highlighted in the run-fest that was the New Zealand warm-up match, and that they've got to focus on that factor if they are to reap success in the tournament.
"I think they've got to play to their strengths. They've got to try and score over 400 runs like we saw against New Zealand and give themselves a chance. How consistent they can do that, only time will tell."
West Indies begin their World Cup campaign against Pakistan a day after the tournament opener between England and South Africa. India, on the other hand, begin their World Cup 2019 campaign a little later than the rest, starting off on 5 June against the Faf du Plessis-led Proteas at Southampton.
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