‘Balance and depth’ were the key focal points when Captain Rohit Sharma and BCCI chief selector Ajit Agarkar unveiled India’s 15-member provisional World Cup squad in Kandy, amidst the ongoing Asia Cup campaign. These were the primary considerations for the final squad selection, aiming to maintain equilibrium and versatility throughout the tournament.
Captain Rohit Sharma emphasized the significance of a strong tail, stressing that in modern cricket, even the No. 11 batsman can make a difference. He highlighted the need for depth in both batting and bowling, which had been lacking in the team in recent years. He mentioned that in their Asia Cup opener against Pakistan, falling short in the late overs cost them dearly, emphasizing that the lower-order batsmen, from No. 8 onwards, should contribute effectively with the bat.
Over the past few weeks, there has been much discussion about Shardul Thakur, known for his improved batting abilities and his ability to make things happen with the ball. His presence at No. 8 in the lineup aligns with Rohit’s vision of bolstering the team’s batting depth.
However, former BCCI chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth disagreed with this choice. He argued that Shardul Thakur had not proven himself as an all-rounder in ODIs, citing his lack of significant batting performances and his inconsistent bowling record, particularly in terms of completing full 10-over spells. Srikkanth proposed the inclusion of a specialist spinner or a pacer instead of Shardul.
In a heated discussion with former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar, Srikkanth questioned Shardul’s status as an all-rounder in ODI cricket, pointing out his limited impact with the bat and ball. While Bangar defended Shardul, Srikkanth remained unconvinced, suggesting that players like Arshdeep Singh, a left-arm pacer, should be considered instead.
Srikkanth further argued that there was no need for a batting option at No. 8 if Shardul could only manage low scores and not bowl his full quota of 10 overs consistently. He urged selectors to focus on performances against top teams like Australia and New Zealand, rather than being swayed by overall averages and performances against weaker opponents.
To illustrate his point, Srikkanth referred to the 2011 World Cup squad’s reserves, where the emphasis was on having options in spin bowling and medium pace, along with a reliable batter like Yusuf Pathan.