Rishabh Pant will be in line for his ODI debut after being named in the 14-member squad for the first two ODIs against Windies.
Regular skipper Virat Kohli returns to lead the side after being rested for the Asia Cup 2018, and will be a part of the team for the full five-match series.
While Pant comes in place of Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni is expected to continue as the first-choice wicketkeeper. MSK Prasad, chairman of selectors, says Pant has been drafted in purely for his batting skills. “If need arises, he will definitely be the back up keeper,” Prasad said. “But now he is looked upon as a batsman.”
The Tamil Nadu ‘keeper will feel hard-done, especially considering he had done reasonably well in the limited opportunities he got. In the Asia Cup, he scored 109 runs at an average of 54.5. However, for Pant, the attacking 92 against Windies in the Rajkot Test, would have helped break the 50-over door. Explaining the logic behind Karthik’s exclusion, Prasad said, “It’s no brainer who our No. 1 wicketkeeper is. In search of the second wicketkeeper, we have given opportunities to DK. Right now we’re giving an opportunity to Rishabh Pant. And we can take a call at the appropriate time as to who is the best among the two.”
Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, who suffered injuries during the recently-concluded Asia Cup, have been left out. Prasad clarified that Pandya is not full recovered as yet, and will be available only after the second week in November. However, information on Jadhav’s recovery was still limited.
The pace attack wears an inexperienced look with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah missing out. Mohammed Shami has been recalled to the side and will lead the attack that also comprises of Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed. Speaking of Shami’s recall to the side, Prasad explained: “I’ve been telling this for quite some time that we are just 18 ODIs from now before we play our first World Cup game. So we need to figure out our fast bowlers. In that process, we have picked Shami.”
He also stressed on the need of creating a strong bench strength in the pace department, and explained that with the two main pacers resting, it will allow the team management to experiment with the back-up options. “That’s the reason why we have included Khaleel, Shardul and Shami in this squad now. Now we are looking at the third and fourth seamers. That’ll be among those people whom we are going to pick from now onwards, which also includes Umesh. Umesh is also in the offing.”
Manish Pandey, who played only one game in the Asia Cup, has managed to retain his place in the squad and will be battling it out with Ambati Rayudu and Pant for two places in the middle order. Even as no one has sealed the No 4 and No 6 spots in the batting line-up, Prasad believes they are coming to close to fixing the issue. Without naming anyone, he said, “We are very close. It’s been in the debate for some time and we have really closed in on couple of names.”
KL Rahul, who had also got to feature in only a solitary game in the Asia Cup, has also been retained. The opener had stroked a 60 but with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan sealing the opening slot, it remains to be seen if the team management continue to persist with him in the role of a reserve opener or will they experiment with him at No. 4 – a position that still awaits to be sealed.
Ravindra Jadeja, who had been called up mid-way through the Asia Cup as a replacement for the injured Pandya, has also retained his place in the side. He had impressed with both bat and ball – picking up seven wickets in four games and scoring 48 crucial runs lower down the order in two innings. However, unless India decide to play three spinners, he will find to break into the XI with the presence of the in-form wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
MS Dhoni, who had skipped playing for Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, will be available for his state side in the knockouts ahead of the ODI series.
The ODI series begins on October 21 in Guwahati.
Squad for first-two ODIs: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (Wk), Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Khaleel Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, KL Rahul