5 selection headaches for Team India keeping the 2023 World Cup in mind
Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav are likely to get promotions from C to B.

Team India’s hunt for the elusive ICC title continues as they failed to go all the way in the T20 World Cup in Australia. Like every time, there were high hopes from the Men in Blue this year as well. They showed glimpses of brilliance, getting the better of Pakistan courtesy of a superb chase by Virat Kohli. However, they lost the other two big games. They came second best against South Africa in Perth in the Super 12 clash. England then thumped a hapless India by 10 wickets in the semi-final in Adelaide. From the form of skipper Rohit Sharma to bizarre selection policies, a lot went wrong for India in the World Cup Down Under, ultimately leading to the sacking of the selection committee. 

The Men in Blue, however, have no time to rest. They have already started preparations for the 2023 ODI World Cup, which will be held in India. India have a lot of questions to answer ahead of the ICC event, especially about selection matters. Here’s a lowdown.

1. Will Shikhar Dhawan be part of the 2023 World Cup?

Veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan has been captaining the one-day team in Rohit Sharma’s absence. He was also named a leader for the New Zealand ODIs. The left-hander has been an excellent servant of Indian cricket. His one-day record speaks for itself. In 163 matches, he has smashed 6747 runs at an average of 44.98 and a strike rate of 91.72, with 17 hundreds and 39 fifties. 

Despite playing only one format of the game, Dhawan has displayed decent form recently. Since the start of the West Indies tour, he has registered four half-centuries in 11 innings with a best of 97. However, his strike rate has recently taken a severe dip, perhaps because he is trying to play for his place in the team. In his last six one-day innings, he has had a strike rate in excess of 90 only once. Dhawan will turn 37 in December. The time to take a call on whether or not he is in the team’s 2023 World Cup plans is now.

2. KL Rahul or Shubman Gill?

KL Rahul may be the designated vice-captain of the Indian white-ball squads. However, in the wake of his poor recent performances, his place in the team itself has come under the scanner. The 30-year-old had a forgettable T20 World Cup 2022 campaign. He got two fifties, but both came against relatively weaker teams. He came a cropper against top sides like South Africa, Pakistan, and England (in the semi-final).

The elegant batter has a history of failing to perform in big matches. In the 2019 World Cup semis in Manchester, he was one of the batters who fell in single-figure scores. Rahul has an impressive one-day record – averaging 45 after 45 with five hundreds. But he hasn’t proved to be a big-game player. Hence, the selectors and think tank might be a fix on whether to keep backing him or groom someone like Shubman Gill, who has been impressed by his opportunities.

3. Time to back Samson over Pant?

Despite consistent failures, Rishabh Pant seems to enjoy the confidence of the team management, which has led to a massive debate in Indian cricket. Opinions have been split over whether the backing is the right move or not. In his last six white-ball knocks, he has registered scores of 27, 3, 6, 6, 11, and 15. Not only has he struggled to score runs, but his rhythm has also yet to be there. In the first one-dayer against New Zealand in Auckland, he took 23 balls for his 15. The left-hander was dismissed ungainly, dragging a delivery from Kiwi pacer Lockie Ferguson back onto his stumps. The manner of dismissal was symptomatic of his white-ball woes with the willow.

In contrast to Pant, Samson has been much more efficient. In his last six ODI knocks, he has scored 43*, 15, 86*, 30*, 2*, and 36. Also, unlike Pant, the right-handed keeper-batter from Kerala has played with a lot more authority. He deserves a chance to play XI ahead of Pant on his current form. However, the latter often gets the nod due to his X-factor. The entire cricketing fraternity has witnessed how explosive he can be. The question is, how long will Team India keep backing Pant, even if he doesn’t deliver the goods?

4. Where does SKY fit in?

Now, Suryakumar Yadav is an automatic choice in T20Is. He has grabbed his spot in the team will some incredible batting performances. But the same cannot be said of his ODI place. The 50-over format requires different skills, and Suryakumar has yet to fully prove himself in this version of international cricket. Of course, the 32-year-old has only played 15 ODIs, but the think tank will need to take a call soon.

If we look at the key members of the squad, apart from seniors Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, and Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer also is in contention for a place in the starting XI. Irrespective of his short-ball woes, Shreyas has an excellent record in the format. Pant, Gill, Samson, and Ishan Kishan are battling it out for a place. When all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja comes in, he will automatically slot into the lower-middle order. It will be difficult to leave out SKY. At the same time, another big question is where he can be slotted in.

5. What should be India’s bowling combination?

Team India’s bowling has suffered in Jasprit Bumrah’s absence lately. Even if he is fit, Team India must ensure adequate back-ups for the lead pacer. Unfortunately for India, there are too many bowlers on the injury list. Deepak Chahar only just returned from injury; Prasidh Krishna is nursing a back injury. T Natarajan seems to have gone off the radar. All-rounder Shardul Thakur has been struggling recently. India handed debuts to Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik in New Zealand, but they would be too raw even if they are backed for the 2023 World Cup.

Among spinners, should they go back to the KulCha (Kuldeep-Chahal) combination? What about Axar Patel? He had a poor T20 World Cup but can be extremely handy in Indian conditions. There is Washington Sundar as well, who can contribute with bat and ball. There are too many questions in the offing. The Indian selectors and team management must ensure they do not leave the answers too late.

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