How should India make use of the West Indies ODI series in preparation for the World Cup?
ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, the mega event that happens once in four years is scheduled to start in May next year at England. 10 teams would go head to head to decide the best in the World. In a cricket fanatic nation like India, the World Cup is no less than a festival for the people. All the hopes and dreams of crores of people would rest on the shoulders of Virat Kohli and his men. With World Cup starting in under 9 months, the Indian cricket team should make the maximum use of the handful of matches which will be happening before the bell is rung at England.
The West Indies ODI series is probably the final opportunity to try out new youngsters and narrow down the options for certain positions in the team. It would be a bad idea to hand debuts after this series as it will give very less time for the player to come into the mindset of representing the country at the highest stage. Hence, the team management should make sure they make full use of this upcoming tournament. There are a few talking points which the team management needs to address:
Are Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav the confirmed players who will play above and below MS Dhoni respectively?
Going by the recently concluded Asia Cup, it seems so. The first three batting positions are confirmed and MS Dhoni at no.5 will be a certainty. The question arises as to who will occupy the batting roles above and below the World Cup-winning captain. Other players like Dinesh Karthik and KL Rahul could also be tried against the West Indies.
Kedar's injury problem will be a concern and India needs to decide immediately on a back-up. Ambati's consistency needs to be tested too by giving him all the five matches. By the end of the series, the Indian team should not have more than four players in their mind while trying to fill in these batting positions.
Kuldeep Yadav & R Jadeja or Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal?
Kuldeep Yadav, for now, seems to be a confirmed starter. His partner has to be decided in the upcoming matches. Though Chahal shares a good bowling rapport with Kuldeep, the option of playing Jadeja should be considered keeping in mind his contributions to all the three departments of the game. However, if Hardik Pandya has injury concerns, playing Jadeja as the all-rounder and including an extra pacer in the team will be the only option going forward.
Who will play as the third pacer?
Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's bowling partnership will be a critical element for India's success. Considering the pitches in England, India may have to play a third seamer. Making Hardik Pandya play that role would be a gamble and the management should be aware of it.
Siddharth Kaul, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, and Khaleel Ahmed are the options available now. However, exploring experienced options like Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav will be a good idea. This problem should be addressed before the world cup.