Where teams stand before the 2019 World Cup: India and Pakistan
With only five months left for the 2019 World Cup, all participating teams have started identifying their respective potential squads for the tournament and are working to fill in any gaps they might have.
While some teams are working to identify their opening combination, other sides are honing in on their key bowlers. As all sides have limited game time to finalize their squads, let us now examine how each team stands and what areas they need to sharpen for the next year's World Cup.
Since losing to Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, India has developed into a settled unit, using the time to identify and develop players deemed crucial to their chances.
India has lost only one ODI series since their 4-1 loss to Australia in early 2016, that one loss coming against England (2-1) earlier this year.
With Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Ambati Rayudu forming the core of the batting, India carries confidence in setting and chasing scores.
MS Dhoni's batting struggles have been evident, but he remains indispensable at present owing to his experience and guidance to the bowlers during the middle and death overs.
The bowling attack is also settled, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Kuldeep Yadav, and Yuzvendra Chahal. Kuldeep, Bhuvneshwar, and Bumrah are essential, with Kuldeep attacking through the middle overs and Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah stifling at the death.
At present, the major problem lies in identifying backups. With the no.4 batting position seemingly settled (Rayudu), identifying backup openers, keeper, and middle order options are a priority. Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, and Rishabh Pant are in contention for opening and middle order spots, with Karthik and Pant also competing for the position of the backup wicketkeeper.
Backup bowlers include Shardul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, and Umesh Yadav.
The 2017 Champions Trophy winners have identified a core group of players for the World Cup, but are struggling for consistency.
A 5-0 series loss to New Zealand earlier this year was tempered by a 5-0 win against Zimbabwe but was followed by a poor performance at the Asia Cup and a drawn series against New Zealand.
A settled top 4 in Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul Haq, Babar Azam, and Shoaib Malik will give Pakistan confidence in their batting, provided consistency is developed.
Sarfraz Ahmed has shown himself to be a good captain, but pressure is on him to score runs and find some form before the World Cup.
The bowling attack is settled, with Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Usman Shinwari, and Rumman Raees providing options. Amir's experience in England will keep him in contention but must show more wicket-taking ability to guarantee himself a spot in the 15 for the tournament.
A backup wicketkeeper is something that Pakistan should consider, with Sarfraz playing as the lone wicketkeeping option since the Champions Trophy. Someone to bat during the middle overs is also something to be considered, with Asif Ali and Mohammad Hafeez in contention for one batting spot.