Despite the glaring lack of confidence inspired by Team India's middle order, courtesy its insipid display in the series, skipper Virat Kohli is clear about his World Cup squad. However, he has preferred to keep his cards close to his chest as of now. In his interaction with the media post the series-deciding one-day match at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Kohli said that while he was clear about who would get to board the World Cup bus, only one spot was still up for grabs.
Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar and M.S. Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik... the list is endless. These are the players the Indian team management has tried at the vexed number four spot in the batting line up. After the loss to Australia in the fifth and final ODI of the series, one can safely assume that the number four spot continues to be the one blank that remains to be filled, going into the World Cup. With Dhoni being a certainty, it appears to be a toss up between the rest and Dinesh Karthik.
Going by the fragility on display in the middle order in the absence of Dhoni in the last two ODIs and the less than favourable response from Pant, it appears wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik may have managed to get a foot in the door of the bus to England.
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“We won’t use the experiments as an excuse for our loss. Anyone who plays for the country, you expect him to give his best. As a combination, we are very much sorted. Based on the condition, you’ll see only one change in the side. The 11 players that we wish to field, we are very much clear about it. Assuming we play the same 11 and they don’t give a winning performance, it doesn’t necessarily mean we chose the wrong guys.”
It may be noted that even before the start of the series, Kohli had said that a player's ticket to the World Cup will not be dependent on his performance in one series. Having said that, it was obvious that opportunities given to the likes of all-rounder Vijay Shankar, wicket-keeper cum batsman Rishabh Pant and, to some extent, to left-arm spinner cum batsman Ravindra Jadeja were for all concerned to test whether they made the cut or not. Rayudu and Rahul were the other batsmen tested in the top order in the series.
Vijay Shankar has scored 120 runs in five matches in the series, but at different positions at number 4, 6 and 7. Pant has batted at number 4 and 5 in the series and has scored 52 runs in two matches. K.L. Rahul got one match and he scored 26 runs batting at number 3. Ambati Rayudu, who also figured in the top order, scored 33 runs in three matches.
Kohli went on to add that with return of Hardik pandya, the balance of the side would be restored. “As a side, I feel we are pretty balanced. (For the World Cup) Hardik Pandya will join the side. His presence lends depth to batting and bowling, giving us more options. We know where we have to be. As a combination, about the playing XI, we are very clear. We will have to take good decisions in pressure situations to go far in the World Cup. As of now, we have no confusion regarding our team for the World Cup.”
Kohli added that no one in the Indian dressing room is panicking. He also said that they have been told to enjoy IPL, approaching it as something that gives them joy and not to put pressure on themselves.
“None of the players in the changing room is panicking or the support staff is feeling down after this defeat because we knew the things that we wanted to do in the last three games, purely because you only have the World Cup after this. As a side, we feel pretty balanced.”
He further added that the the onus of managing their fitness ahead of the World Cup was totally on themselves during IPL. Each player has been told to coordinate with team physio Patrick Farhat and franchise support staff to take a call on when they needed the required rest.