After a disappointing end to the Champions Trophy, the Indian team is currently in the Carribean for a limited overs assignment. Every match from now on becomes an audition to make the selectors pick a strong team for the 2019 World Cup in England. India will look to use these games to prepare as they did in 2009, which led to a 2011 World Cup win. We look at five players India should keep in the loop:
Pant came into the public eye when he amassed 267 runs in six games at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup. In the same year, the 19-year old scored 1101 runs in 11 games in the Ranji Trophy at an average of 68.81, scoring the fastest ever Ranji hundred in the same season. He went on to make his T20I debut earlier this year against England. In this IPL season, Pant scored 366 runs at a strike rate of 165.61. He is part of the squad for the ongoing series against West Indies. He is one player Indian fans are particularly excited about and should be in the loop for the World Cup.
Chinaman bowlers in India are a rare breed. Kuldeep Yadav is one of those and is in fact only the second Chinaman bowler to come out of the subcontinent. His early years in the domestic circuit and the IPL have seen him make a Test and ODI debut already. The 22-year old became the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick at the Under-19 World Cup in 2014. He finished as the third highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 14 wickets. On his Test debut against Australia earlier this year, Kuldeep took 4/68 in the first innings of the final and deciding Test and just a week back took 3/50 in his first outing for India in limited-overs cricket. A rarity in the cricketing world but also another player who India need to look after for the World Cup.
One player who has had it difficult to chalk down a permanent place in the side is Manish Pandey. Sometimes it has been due to injury and sometimes due to giving senior players a chance. The Karnataka batsman has only played 12 ODIs, four of which have come against Zimbabwe. In early 2016, Pandey scored a magnificent hundred in a chase against Australia to save India from a series whitewash. His last series, though, was a failure against New Zealand last year, as he only scored 76 runs in five games. After a strong IPL season where he made 396 runs at an average of 49.50, India would be wise to trust Manish Pandey again with a view to the World Cup.
One of India’s limited over specialists, Suresh Raina has dropped out of the setup for a while now due to a consistent run of failures. India, though, still need to keep Raina in the frame for the World Cup simply because of his big match experience and his efficiency in the shorter formats. His IPL season was good, as he scored 442 runs at 40.18 and will look to return to domestic cricket to start a comeback phase to the Indian side. Like Yuvraj Singh, India can look at Suresh Raina as a comeback man and use his experience towards the World Cup.
India need to use every bilateral series from now on with a view to the World Cup in 2019 and these four players could be important to the core of that World Cup side. They need to emulate their preparation like the one for the victorious 2011 World Cup campaign, when Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, as well as others, were still young to the international stage.