Post the massive heartbreaks and the absolute stunner of a final in the World Cup where England were crowned champions, it is back to the grind for all teams across the globe. The focus will be on putting behind what happened in the World Cup while keeping an eye on the future.
With the ICC Test Championships expected to start soon, all Tests starting from the India vs Windies matches and the Ashes will have even more value and significance. Every match and result matters a lot; bilateral Test series are only going to get more enthralling and exciting.
As far as limited overs matches are concerned, there’s a lot to play for as the T20 World Cup is around the corner. All the teams would look to have a strong focus on building a unit that remains fresh and can perform to the best of their abilities in T20Is.
The squads for India’s tour of West Indies starting from 3 August 2019 were announced yesterday. There were a lot of ripples created by the announcement, not least of which was the big news that MS Dhoni had opted out of the tour to serve the Indian Army for two months.
Chief selector MSK Prasad did mention that Dhoni is no longer the first-choice wicket-keeper for India, and that Rishabh Pant is going to be the first choice wicket-keeper across formats from now on. Apart from Dhoni not featuring in this tour, here are some of the major takeaways from the squads announced:
1. India with a full-strength Test squad look to retain the #1 ranking
India had the option of resting some of their key players for the two-match series against the Windies. Keeping in mind the amount of cricket their players have played in recent times, right from the IPL to the World Cup, it was widely expected that some key members – especially the ones who feature in all three squads – would be rested.
But given the emphasis on retaining the #1 ranking in Test cricket and also to boost their chances in the ICC Test Championship, India have named a full-strength squad to take on the Windies. The return of Test specialists like Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin is a good sign for India.
Led by Virat Kohli, one can expect strong intensity from India and for the standard of cricket to be high. There are a few things that should arouse the interest of fans such as:
1. How will the returning Shikhar Dhawan fare as an opener? Who will his opening partner be – KL Rahul or Mayank Agarwal?
2. Ravichandran Ashwin recently had a very productive county stint with Nottinghamshire . Can he replicate that form against the Windies?
3. How will Rishabh Pant fare in his first series as the designated first choice wicket-keeper, ahead of Wriddhiman Saha?
2. Some bemusing selections for the ODI team
More than a billion dreams were shattered when India crashed out of the World Cup in the semi-finals against New Zealand. But it was a pretty commanding and dominating campaign for India until then; the fans who are going all out in criticizing their team’s performance should keep in mind that India ended at the top of the table in the league stages.
Despite a fairly solid World Cup, there were some clear blemishes and areas of concern that needed addressing such as:
– The number 4 slot conundrum.
– Back-up for Jasprit Bumrah in the death overs.
– The fragility of the middle-order.
It looks like the selectors still haven’t got a clear idea of the areas where the team needs to improve. They have gone with Kedar Jadhav for the 3-match ODI series against the Windies, despite his role being very muddled; he barely bowled any overs in the World Cup.
Why exactly is Jadhav still in the ODI mix? Is he going be the backup spin option in case Ravindra Jadeja has an off day with the ball?
Even more perplexing is the exclusion of Shubman Gill, who has been in piping hot form for India A recently (averaging 49.76 in five matches with three fifties). The selectors have gone in with Manish Pandey to strengthen the middle-order instead of the talented 19-year-old.
A series immediately after a tournament like the World Cup is the right opportunity to get fresh talent into the squad. As such, the inclination of going in with the experience of Jadhav and Pandey is surprising.
3. The T20I squad looks strong and focused on building a team for the T20 World Cup
The clear focus in the selection of players for the three-match T20I series against Windies seems to be the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia. A lot of fresh, young faces who have impressed in IPL for their respective franchises have made it into the team.
Players like Navdeep Saini (RCB), Deepak Chahar (CSK), Rahul Chahar (MI), Krunal Pandya (MI) and Washington Sundar (RCB) have been promoted to represent their country now.
This team is extremely talented and experienced in its top order with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. The middle order looks potentially explosive but with players who haven’t yet set the stage ablaze for India in the opportunities they have received thus far.
The bowling lineup with Bhuvneshwar Kumar being the most experienced player can be a cause for concern. With flat pitches and an inexperienced set of bowlers to fall back on like Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed and Krunal Pandya, it’s going to be an interesting T20I series.
With the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal rested, this is the perfect opportunity for the others to make a mark.