has been included in India’s World Cup squad despite not having played any competitive cricket since May this year. Rahul, the first-choice wicketkeeper, is currently preparing to fly out to Sri Lanka for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup after passing a fitness assessment at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru on September 4.
Middle-order batter Tilak Varma
and fast bowler Prasidh Krishna
are the two players from the current squad of 17 in Sri Lanka to have missed out, along with Sanju Samson
, who is a reserve player at the Asia Cup.
has retained his place as one of two wicketkeeper-batters in the squad along with Rahul. Kishan underscored his utility by top-scoring with 82, his fourth successive ODI half-century, in India’s rained-out Asia Cup opener against Pakistan in Pallekele on September 2.
Despite Kishan’s form raising the possibility of him doubling up as a reserve middle-order batter, the selectors committee also picked Suryakumar Yadav
in the squad despite middling ODI numbers – an average of 24.22 with two half-centuries in 24 innings.
Rahul, who last played an ODI in March this year, tore a tendon in his right thigh during the IPL and had to undergo surgery in May. He was selected in the Asia Cup squad following extensive rehabilitation at the NCA, but was then ruled out of the first two matches after picking up a new niggle.
“We had a couple of fitness issues that we had to look at, but all three [Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah and Shreyas Iyer] who had long-term injuries have come through,” India’s chief selector Ajit Agarkar
said. “KL is looking good. We feel this gives us the best balance to try and do well. With KL he was part of the camp in Bangalore, he looked really good there has got over his niggle. He played a couple of games over the last two days. I think he kept for 50 overs and batted for around 50 overs too, so he looks good and we’re happy to have him.”
Last week, India head coach Rahul Dravid
expressed satisfaction with Rahul’s recovery while also explaining they were taking a “slightly more cautious approach”
with him. Since then, Rahul has been at the NCA working with head physio Nitin Patel and had a match simulation exercise on Monday to test his level of readiness.
Bumrah spearheads the pace attack that includes Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur. Kuldeep Yadav is the frontline wristspinner, with Axar Patel, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya as the three genuine allrounders. The squad lacks an offspinner.
“Clearly there will be discussions given we have both Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel who spin the ball into left-handers,” Agarkar said. “Both give us depth in batting. Kuldeep takes the ball away. In 50 overs cricket, perhaps you would ideally want an offspinner but this gives us the best balance. Seamers tend to bowl a lot more in ODIs as compared to T20 cricket, and perhaps you’re a little more under pressure if you don’t have an offie, so we’re happy with the guys we have.”
While the deadline to submit the World Cup squad to the ICC is September 5, teams can make changes until September 28 without needing approval from the ICC. This gives India three more ODIs against Australia after the Asia Cup to give players such as Rahul and Iyer more game time. India open their World Cup campaign on October 8, when they take on Australia in Chennai.
India’s World Cup squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj