The tried and tested for India's Champions Trophy campaign
The Champions trophy or the mini world cup, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the wake of BCCI's ongoing tussle with the ICC over a disputed revenue sharing model.
In keeping with the seemingly never-ending controversy, the BCCI are yet to name India's squad for the event. That said, having played international cricket myself, one fully understands that the basic squad selects itself and it’s the selection of the fringe players that gets debated.
There is also a theory going around that should the BCCI not get the best of its intended bargain with the ICC, they may be tempted to cock a snook at the game's governing body by sending a second string team filled with potential hopefuls from the IPL, the "A" team or even the U-19 squad. Mind you, it won't be a bad set of players given that most of them are innately talented and possess the fearlessness of youth to cause a stir or two.
That said, I sincerely hope and believe the festering issue would be solved amicably by dialogue instead of pressurised stances. For the repercussions and ramifications of an ugly tussle would create needless ripples across world cricket and the spectator would be the real sore loser - paying through their noses and yet not getting to see the stars don national colours.
My Indian team would look like this -
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Manish Pandey.
In the above side, barring a few names, a lot of them are sure shot selections. The seaming conditions of England call for a slightly different set of skills. And it is in that backdrop that I endeavour with earnest. There may be questions asked of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. If the recent slump of the former is a talking point, the patchy returns mustered by the latter remains a concern. Although a lot of water has flown under the Thames since India's last visit to England, fans would do well to recall that this was the pair that provided great starts during their victorious Champions Trophy campaign in 2013 and during their fine run in the 2015 World Cup.
Dhawan plundered two hundreds in 2013 and when playing the Proteas in Australia, he ran riot while winning plaudits and the game in the bargain. Going by his keen and eager display during the IPL, one senses that he's in good hitting form and this will only improve with faith reposed. Ditto in respect of Rohit. On a bad day, he can make one pull their hair out with his seemingly lackadaisical attitude while playing with an air of a distracted prince. A devil may care approach and the odd flippant shot selection notwithstanding, Rohit Sharma is a determined and skilled batsman, keen to make up for lost time.
Meanwhile, Gautam Gambhir, at 34 and in Indian conditions, can't seem to put a foot wrong lately. He's burying the bowlers with his recently adopted two-eyed stance. But it must also be admitted that England's grassy and swinging conditions in June are vastly different from the famed flat pitches that usually surface in July. Also, international bowlers gnaw away and hone in on Gambhir's off stump with mind numbing accuracy to plot his downfall, a feature not seen in this IPL. Therefore, the condition and know weaknesses are bound to make the southpaw life difficult in England. Hence, despite the KKR skipper's fine form, my third opener would be Rahane. The Mumbaikar is a solid player possessing no frills or fancies but plain and simple air-tight technique.
The other contentious slot may well be that of Dinesh Karthik, my former team-mate. I pick him for his red-hot current form for TN in the Ranji Trophy, Deodhar Trophy and Vijay Hazare tourneys. That he has amassed runs in an insane manner is a fact no one can ignore. Through the sheer weight of runs, he has stormed the door ajar. Although Saha is miles ahead of him in terms of technical glove work and despite MSD's presence, I would go with "DK" ahead of a young and emerging Rishab Pant. Pant's time may well come anytime soon, for such is his explosive talent.
Should MSD suffer an injury scare, the clinching tilt towards DK would be his pure wicket-keeper batsman credentials and bags of experience. That aside, DK's selection will send the right signals to the honest domestic-toilers that they are recognised and rewarded. While Robin Uthappa's cause has been espoused by the KKR coach Jacques Kallis, a worrisome knee won't help his cause in the 50-over format - an entirely different ballgame when compared to T20 cricket.
The rest of the personnel in the other departments select themselves via their strength of performances of the immediate past. While it's difficult to restrain from the irresistible temptation of fielding young hopefuls on an England tour, the selectors would be expected to steer clear of experimentation. When on that subject, the names of Ishan Kishan and Basil Thampi would crop up. If Sunil Gavaskar raves about the former's precocious talent, the latter's screaming yorker are irresistible.
One can safely infer that the odds won't be too long on the defending champions, for such has been their form lately and more so in England, given the ODI format.
Also read: IPL 2017 Points Table and Standings