Jadeja's return and dynamics for the World Cup: What does the squad against the Aussies tell?
The countdown to the ICC Cricket World Cup has begun. Now it's less than 100 days to Cricket's biggest carnival. Every team is trying to figure out their perfect combination and their 15 men for the World Cup. India have almost identified their squad with 12 players, namely Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli, Rayadu, Dhoni, Jadhav, Bumrah, Bhuvi, Shami, Pandya, Kuldeep and Chahal are a certainty.
Three spots are still up for grabs. The upcoming ODI series against Australia is India last assignment before the mega-event. So, it is their last chance to fill the vacant spots. The team selection tells a lot about the team management and the selectors thought process.
So let's dwell a little deep about what combination the selectors and the team management are thinking about.
Probably the biggest surprise about the team for the Aussie series was the exclusion of Dinesh Karthik. Yes, he couldn't play well in the middle overs but in the limited opportunities he got, he was good as a finisher. He was almost assured of a WC slot. But the selectors had other plans. They are probably fascinated by the X-factor in Pant.
Pant who has been brilliant in the test matches earned his reward. A good innings here or there seals his world cup spot, even though it looks almost certain going by the thought process of the team management. MSK Prasad though was optimistic for DK and said Pant and DK have to fight it out for finishing in the final 15. All doors have yet not closed for DK. Handy cameos in the T-20's and in the IPL and Pant not setting the stage on fire can turn the tide in Karthik's favour. Flamboyance or experience, what would work at a big stage, that's a big question?
Vijay Shankar was always looked upon as backup allrounder for Hardik Pandya. Whenever Pandya was injured or rested, he was drafted in the squad. Given that Pandya was out of the Aussies series and initial part of the New Zealand series, Shankar was given a go as a reserve for Pandya.
But now the dynamics have certainly changed. In the T-20's against New Zealand, Rohit played Shankar as a proper batsman and promoted him to bat at No. 3. It worked wonders and he was able to showcase his batting prowess. Even in the 5th ODI, he helped Rayadu rebuild the innings and impressed one and all. Now here he is the ODI squad along with Pandya. What actually is the team management thinking about him? Are they looking at him as a finisher who, if needed can bowl few overs, a like and like replacement for Jadhav. Given Jadhav record in terms of injuries, it's a good tool to sharpen.
KL Rahul's return to the team clearly suggests the amount of backing he gets. It was just a matter of a few runs under his belt to gain some confidence. He is all set to be India's backup opener for the WC, even though I still believe he can be a handy middle order (No. 4) batsman who hasn't been given enough chances.
Another interesting decision was the axing of Jadeja. It reflects the fact that India looks to strengthen their batting and are happy with just two spinners for the World Cup. Before the Asia Cup, if one said that Jadeja would be in contention for the World Cup, he would have thought to be joking. But luck gave Jadeja a second chance. And his impressive performances ensured that he might make it to the cut. Having played all the ODI's in Australia, the idea just grew stronger that he would be India's third spinner.
There was an indication that he may not be in the starting XI (which is really understandable) when he didn't get a game in New Zealand and the spin-duo of KulCha played. But in the absence of Pandya, he could well be the one who could maintain balance.
Fate once again had other plans. Pandya is ruled out of the Aussie series and he once again finds himself in the team. The left-armer has his last chance to have a shot at the WC spot.
Overall to sum-up, the squad for the upcoming ODI series reflects the fact Pant and Shankar are favourites for the 2 vacant spots. Karthik is not completely out of the picture. Rahul will be the backup opener. Attention would also be on Jadeja now who is the best replacement for Pandya. If he would perform well, there could be a choice between him and Shankar for a ticket to England.