India World Cup squad to be announced on April 15


India’s World Cup squad will be picked in Mumbai on April 15. The meeting is likely to be attended by Virat Kohli, with the India captain scheduled to lead Royal Challengers Bangalore in their away match against Mumbai Indians on the same evening, reported Cricinfo. 

Although the deadline set by the ICC to announce squads for the World Cup is April 23, it is believed the Indian selectors wanted players to have extra time to mentally prepare themselves for the tournament that India last won in 2011 at home.

MSK Prasad’s, chairman of India’s selection committee, had pointed out as early as February that his panel had shortlisted a pool of about 20-odd players from which the final 15 would be picked. “Maybe one spot might go to the last minute, otherwise we are very clear about the rest,” Prasad had told ESPNcricinfo in an interview.

Prasad had also pointed out that the selection panel would not look at the IPL form to firm up the vacant spots. “I do not think so, only because we have already made up our minds. We will only be observing the performances of the players we think should be in the squad and the list of stand-byes. We have rounded up on 20 players. We will follow the form of these players.”

Kohli, too, reiterated the point before the home ODI series against Australia last month, saying the team management and the selectors need to be “absolutely clear” about the team they wanted for the World Cup. “I don’t see anything changing despite how the IPL goes for any of the players. If one or two players don’t have a good IPL season, it doesn’t mean that they are out of the picture for the World Cup. Those things are not going to matter.”

The Australia series was India’s last ODI tournament before the World Cup, and they lost 3-2, despite wins in the first two matches. After the result, Kohli insisted the Indian dressing room was not “panicking”. “As a side, combination-wise, we are pretty sorted condition-based. Maximum one change, you’ll get to see condition-based. But other than that, the XI we want to play, we are pretty clear about it.”

The questions are likely to center around the No. 4 slot in the batting order and the position of the second allrounder after Hardik Pandya. Vijay Shankar’s good form since the New Zealand series raised the possibility of him playing as a second allrounder, instead of Ravindra Jadeja who has performed that role since the Asia Cup.

Then there is the No. 4 batting slot. Since the 2017 Champions Trophy, India have tried out 11 batsmen in that position with Ambati Rayudu getting the most games. During the home series against West Indies in October last year, Kohli had backed Rayudu for the position, as he provided the balance and had the smartness to play to the situation. However, since then Rayudu has just one fifty to his credit, which has allowed other aspirants to queue up. And this queue has only gotten longer.

Alongside Rayudu, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant are the frontrunners for the position. Of these, Pant was a late addition to the race. The selection panel believes the left-handed Pant provides a good option in the middle order, especially against bowling attacks that are stacked with wristspinners. Pant has played only five ODIs, but his fearless batting has impressed the selectors, Kohli and the senior team management, as well as India A coach Rahul Dravid.

The one other talking point for the selectors is the composition of the fast-bowling attack. As things stand, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar should likely be certainties. Pandya could play the role of the part-time seamer, but should India then have a fourth specialist seamer? If that is case, then the contenders are likely to be Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini who, the selectors believe could be a dark horse due to his performance.