ICC World Cup 2019: 3 players who can provide the X-factor for India
It is time once again for the ICC World Cup. After the conclusion of IPL 2019, which was one of the most thrilling seasons ever, fans can take a breather for the next fortnight or so. But come June, all Indian fans will be praying for Virat Kohli's boys to bring back the trophy that they last won in 2011.
India enter the World Cup 2019 as one of the firm favorites. This edition will follow a format similar to the 1992 one in Australia - each team will play against all the others in a round robin group phase, and the top four will make it to the semi-finals.
On current form India, England and Australia look likely to qualify for the knockout stages along with one of Pakistan, South Africa or New Zealand.
India's form in ODIs over the past two years has been simply sensational. They are currently second in the ICC ODI rankings behind World Cup hosts England. But there are still a few question marks over the starting XI and the balance of the side.
Most importantly, Virat Kohli needs to address the number 4 quandary and the form of Kuldeep Yadav.
We all know that India's top 3 batsmen are the best in the world. And they have a formidable bowling lineup which has the capability to take wickets at any stage of the game. But to win a tournament like the World Cup you need to have some X factors in your team.
In 2011, Yuvraj Singh did that job very well with both bat and ball. Despite battling cancer, he exceeded all expectations and ended up as Man of the Tournament.
On that note, let's take a look at 3 players who can prove to be India's trump cards at the World Cup in England.
#3 KL Rahul
Over the last couple of years India have tried so many batsmen for the number 4 position that its almost impossible to keep count. Ambati Rayudu was given a long run at number 4, till right before the IPL. But his recent form for India as well as CSK has seen him lose his place in the squad altogether.
After Rayudu, Vijay Shankar has been given a chance to make this spot his own. But imagine a situation where the top 3 batsmen falter. In such a scenario, can Shankar win you a match with his batting alone? There's no clear answer to that.
KL Rahul's ODI stats are nothing to write home about. Over 13 innings he averages 34.3 at a strike rate of 80.9. However, an excellent IPL has seen him make a comeback into the team. He scored 593 runs for KXIP at an average of 42.06, and finished as the tournament's second highest run getter.
What was particularly heartening to see was his composure and temperament.
At number four India need a multi dimensional batsman. They need someone who can hold the innings together should the team lose early wickets, and someone who can also explode at will if the start is good and quick runs are required.
Rahul has the technical ability to battle it out in bowler-friendly conditions. He also has a wide range of shots which can help him accelerate, if the situation so demands. And most importantly, he has the skills to navigate the team during a tight chase.
With him at number four and Dhoni to follow, India can afford to play either Kedar Jadhav or Shankar at number six. Indian fans will hope that Rahul will grab this opportunity with both hands and prove to be a decisive player in the middle order. And should either of the opening batsmen go through a prolonged rough patch, he could double up as an opener as well.