On the eve of the final ODI series how are India shaping up on their quest to defend the trophy they sensationally won in England almost 4 years ago? One pleasing aspect of this current squad is the spine of the starting XI is likely to remain consistent to that of the 2013 tournament.
Team India go into the England series with at least 9 players who where in the 2013 squad. You will struggle to find a team in the world who will have retained such consistency in their squad from tournament to tournament.
But what can we expect form this team 4 years down the line…?
Firstly, we enter an ICC Tournament for the first time in over 10 years with a new leader. Was Dhoni right to quit as skipper months before a tournament? Will this decision prolong his career in the shorter format of the game? Will this give him the freedom to play like his earlier years? Only time will tell but you have to applaud the man who made a another selfless decision for what he believed was right for his team and his country.
The great news is that Virat will still have Dhoni by his side to guide him through those tuff difficult moments which can only be a massive benefit to our chances – we should get a glimpse of how the Virat/Dhoni combo work together in the England series – It will be interesting to see how Dhoni takes a back seat and let’s Virat stamp his brand on this team which has very much been built by Dhoni over the last couple of years.
One of he most pleasing aspects of what’s transpired over the last 4 years is Team India’s bench strength – the quality of back up players has got stronger and stronger – we now have genuine competition at a number of the key positions in the side and we can see how positively that has impacted the performance of the players in the hot seats.
The emergence of KL Rahul has been a huge bonus in all formats of the game. It would be almost criminal if he couldn’t find a spot in the 15 man squad for England – but it would be a tuff call to drop Rohit or 2013’s man of tournament Dhawan from the starting XI.
With Kohli cemented in at no.3, and with strong signals from the Indian camp that Dhoni will move up the order the debate then is who will occupy positions 4, 5 and 6 with fans favourite Yuvraj Singh also finding himself with a chance of entering the big stage again.
The Virat/Dhoni/Yuvraj relationship is a strong one. A fantastic concoction of aggression, explosiveness, calmness and more importantly tournament match winning experience. You can’t help but feel that Yuvraj will have at least one last hoorah in front of his adoring fans.
In the midst of the 3 pin up boys of Indian cricket we have our current vice captain Rahane who will go about his business in is normal understated way.
The top 6 should select itself baring injury or a big dip in form over the next few weeks with KL Rahul being a very good option waiting in the wings should we need a replacement somewhere in the batting line up.
The next 2 positions need very little debate – No.1 and 2 in the world albeit in a different format of the game, Ashwin and Jadeja are now not just feared to batsman allover the world but over the last 2 years have started making more than significant contribution as genuine allrounders adding tremendous depth in batting for a team that had been searching for a genuine all rounder – well now we have two!
If we had bench strength to be admired in the batting department the fast bowlers in india are not letting us down !
You would think injury/fitness a side 4 certainties for this squad would be Shami, Umesh, Buvi and Bumrah, these four bowlers have been the nucleus of our fast bowling attack over the last couple of years and now with a variety of genuine pace, disciplined line and length and able to offer a variety of wicket taking deliveries we have a bowling line up that is not just feared for its world class spinners but also for its pacers. Which one of the 4 would sit it out, well that’s a bit of a lottery!
So with 13 out of 15 men identified so far that leaves 2 slots left in the squad. One decision to be made is would you go with Raina or Mishra? My pick would be Raina as we lack left handed batsman, he has tournament experience and has match winning capability – He would also be a decent back up should we need him. The final slot going to Hardik who may well play a major part in this tournament with conditions suiting his bowling and he also offers another aggressive batting option lower down the order.
Whatever 15 the Indian selectors decide to go with I believe this will be the strongest squad we have ever entered going into an ICC Tournament. The nucleus of this squad have been around for a while now and the majority of the players are playing all formats, this I believe has been key to India’s recent success in all formats and the rise to the top is nearly all formats.
As defending champions, without a doubt we enter the tournament as favourites – could we be the first team ever to retain the Champions Trophy?
We wait in anticipation for what is sure to be another fantastic tournament in England and with The Bharat Army as Team India’s 12th Man on the field I believe we will retain the trophy and bring it back home! #ComeOnIndia !
Raks’s #CT17 Squad:
3. Kohli (Capt)
4. Dhoni (WK)