Pallekele (Sri Lanka): The inclusion of wicketkeeper-batter KL Rahul, whose fitness was under scrutiny, headlined the announcement of India’s 15-member World Cup squad on Tuesday, as the selectors strived for all-round balance.
Chief selector Ajit Agarkar said there was no concern about Rahul’s fitness, though he did not travel to Sri Lanka for India’s group stage Asia Cup matches.
Rahul is scheduled to reach Sri Lanka ahead of India’s Super 4 matches, starting on September 9 against Pakistan.
Agarkar said the 31-year-old managed to prove his fitness at the NCA on both batting and wicket keeping counts.
The selectors also named Ishan Kishan as the second wicketkeeper-batter, and captain Rohit Sharma did not rule out the possibility of playing both Kishan and Rahul in the 11 if the situation warrants so.
The selection of both Rahul and Kishan meant that there was no place for Sanju Samson, who is currently in Sri Lanka as a travelling reserve for the Asia Cup.
Shreyas Iyer, who played against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, occupied one spot in the middle-order, and there was a two-way tie for the remaining position between Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma.
However, Suryakumar was preferred over the youngster despite the former not having a good run in the ODIs.
The 32-year-old floundered in the three-match ODI series against West Indies recently, but the selectors took into account the Mumbaikar’s ability to explode with the bat.
In view of the players who missed out on the selection such as Samson and Tilak, Rohit said the management at times will have to take tough calls for the benefit of the team.
“It is not a bad thing when people are fighting for their spots. The challenges increase and it (the selection) gets harder. But we have to see who is in form, who the opposition is and which player can benefit the most in those circumstances.
“It happens all the time. We have seen in cricket that you have to make tough choices to ensure the team gets what it needs,” said Rohit during the press conference to announce the India World Cup squad.
On the bowling front, the selectors went on expected lines picking up Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami as three frontline pacers.
Bumrah has recently returned from a long injury layoff during the T20I series against Ireland, and he is also a part of India’s Asia Cup squad.
However, pacer Prasidh Krishna could not find a place, though he might get a chance to show his wares in the ongoing Asia Cup.
Vice-captain Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur will give India the option of two more pacers.
As expected, India opted for left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, the left-arm spinners, in the squad.
Hence, veteran leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal continued to be on the sidelines, while the absence of R Ashwin and Washington Sundar ensured that India will not have the services of an off-spinner during the World Cup.
Rohit said the decision to go ahead with Thakur and Axar aligned with the team’s desire to attain as much balance as possible.
“We need to create that depth (in batting and bowling) as it was lacking in our team for the last few years. When we talk about depth in batting, that No. 9, No. 8 positions become very crucial,” said Rohit.
The Indian captain also hoped that players like Thakur and Axar will be able to provide some crucial runs in the backend of the innings which at times can be a deciding factor.
“In the first game here (against Pakistan) we saw that we fell short in the backend. We want tailenders to contribute too.
“Another 10-15 runs in that game would have made a difference. It is the margin between winning and losing. We have spoken to them and told them to don that role too in the WC,” said Rohit.
The India squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah.