ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 | Focus was on eight batters, six bowling options for every game

The quest was visible in India’s squad that will hope to end the 12-year-old drought for an ICC title, on home soil in October-November.

September 05, 2023 10:32 pm | Updated September 06, 2023 12:31 pm IST - Pallekele

BCCI chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar is seen during a press conference in Pallekele on September 5, 2023.

BCCI chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar is seen during a press conference in Pallekele on September 5, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Balance is not something you find, it is something you create. That seems to be the mantra of India’s head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma while planning for the Men’s ODI Cricket World Cup.

Their quest — with Ajit Agarkar having joined in the last stages — was visible in India’s squad that will hope to end the 12-year-old drought for an ICC title, on home soil in October-November.

One may point out the absence of an off-spinner in the squad, despite two able options in R. Ashwin and Washington Sundar. Similarly, the squad doesn’t have a left-arm pacer, with Arshdeep Singh and Jaydev Unadkat being in the mix for a better part of the last 10 months.

It’s not that either of this quartet is not good enough, especially in Indian conditions. Their omission is primarily due to the team management’s thrust on striking the right balance of having at least six bowling options and eight batters for every game.

As a result, Shardul Thakur and Axar Patel have been preferred over the rest. Shardul’s economy rate and his batting ability may be questionable. But the Mumbai pacer has been India’s trump card in ODIs since the last World Cup. Not only does he strike with the ball against all odds but also chips in with vital runs when required.

Similarly, Axar offers a handy all-rounder’s option, despite his uncanny similarity to Ravindra Jadeja in skillset. Add to it Kuldeep Yadav’s ability to turn the ball away from left-handed batters and that virtually shut the doors on both the off-spinners.

The team management’s thrust on a batting option at No. 8 means the pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj are unlikely to feature together regularly. One of the three primary pace pack members will have to make way for either Shardul or Axar, depending on the conditions.

“That’s the best we could do. We looked at everything and every possible way of getting the players in. There will be players who miss out but that happens in every World Cup,” Rohit said on Tuesday.

“Always a disappointment when some players miss out, but you can get only 15 in. So much talent in India. I have gone through it, I know how it feels, so keep your chin up. For us it was about balance and all-round options. This is the best 15 we could do.”

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