After a prolonged delay and genuine uncertainty over whether India would actually take part in the Champions Trophy or not due to a row with the ICC over revenue separation, India finally announced their squad for the tournament on Monday. At first glance, the squad was more or less as expected. Most of them picked themselves as the likes of Mohammad Shami and Rohit Sharma make a comeback to the limited over side after injury had thwarted them in recent times.
Mohammed Shami, who last played ODI cricket in the 2015 ICC World Cup, has returned to the squad after regaining fitness. He was one of India’s best bowlers in the World Cup but since then, chronic injuries has constantly affected his career. Having regained fitness a few weeks back, he has played Vijay Hazare Trophy matches for Bengal and in the IPL for Delhi Daredevils. Rohit Sharma, on the other hand, has been troubled by a thigh injury since October last year and after being out for almost six months; he made a comeback in the IPL for Mumbai Indians and has made steady contributions with the bat for them, without exactly setting the stage alight. KL Rahul, who would have made the squad if he was fit, is still recovering from a shoulder operation and has not fully recovered yet. In his place, Shikhar Dhawan, who has lost his place in the Test side owing to poor form, has been selected and has done impressively in domestic cricket and the IPL this season.
There were question marks over whether Ajinkya Rahane would make the squad after his recent poor run of form. He did make the squad and is expected to be a back up opener to Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. When asked about MS Dhoni, India’s chief selector MSK Prasad said, “How many of us believe this fact that MS Dhoni is still the best wicketkeeper in the world? We still believe he is still the best wicketkeeper. We are only focusing on his batting form. He is an invaluable asset to this team when it comes to crunch situations. (On) his inputs, he has got one of the best brains and he is the best person to guide Virat. Not many people realise that in the last 10 to 15 years that he has been playing for the country, he has never had a bad day with the wicketkeeping gloves. We (the country) always treat him more like a batsman, but the phenomenal stuff that he does behind the wickets, not many people appreciate it. According to me, he is still the best wicketkeeper in the world.”
Also, MSK Prasad went on to say, “We considered Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik and Shardul Thakur. They are on our standby list for the ICC Champions Trophy. We discussed Kuldeep. He narrowly missed out, but has a big role to play in future. Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya are youngsters we’ve been grooming. We’re extremely pleased with Rishabh and will groom him too.”
Pant and Kuldeep, in particular, would feel hard done by considering the fact that they have been in scintillating form in both domestic cricket and in the IPL. Pant had scored 972 runs at an average of 81 to go with an astonishing strike rate of 107 in the 2016-17 Ranji season and Kuldeep made his Test Debut against Australia in March, playing a vital role by picking up key wickets to help India win the Test and the series 2-1.
The bowling line up looks well settled with both the quicks and spinners in great form heading into the tournament. Unlike previous ICC tournaments, there are more question marks regarding India’s batting prowess. MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh aren’t exactly at their peaks and they are expected to provide firepower and momentum in the latter stages of the innings. Kedar Jadhav has done very well but hasn’t played international cricket outside the subcontinent (except Zimbabwe) and that could be an issue. Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are the key men and if India are to succeed in the tournament, they really must contribute significantly.
India are placed in Group B alongside South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They will open their campaign with a big clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 4. India play their other two group stages games against Sri Lanka and South Africa on June 8 and June 11, respectively. That is after they take on New Zealand on May 28 and Bangladesh on May 30 in the warm-up games ahead of the tournament.
Squad: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami
Expected Playing XI – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav