Thu, 24 Jan 2019
24
Sydney

India vice-captain Rohit Sharma believes that barring form and injury concerns, India's World Cup squad is most likely to be similar to the one named for the ODI series against Australia and New Zealand. He added, however, that selections would depend on form, and there was thus no guarantee of being picked.

"I think the 13 ODIs we're going to be playing leading up to the World Cup, you're going to see more or less the same squad playing in the World Cup," Rohit said. "Probably one or two changes, keeping in mind the form and injury concerns over the next few months. We've played a lot of cricket throughout the year, so injuries are bound to happen. Don't think there'll be any drastic change. Looking at the slots - they're pretty much taken by individuals. Everything will depend on the form of each player, nobody is guaranteed that flight to England.

"It's slightly early to be talking about the playing XI. But there aren't going to be any drastic changes We still have 13 games, 4-5 months to go and two months of IPL. Lot of cricket to be played. So it's hard to name the 11 or 12 that'll be playing the World Cup."

India brought back Dinesh Karthik in place of Rishabh Pant, and also excluded Manish Pandey and Umesh Yadav. The ODI squad for the Australia and New Zealand series includes Kedar Jadhav, who has struggled with injuries, and Hardik Pandya. Frontline quick Jasprit Bumrah has been rested with an eye on his workload, after the four-match Test series where he bowled more overs (157.1) than any other fast bowler.

Rohit feels the absence of Australia's mainstay fast bowlers - Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins - will not make the contest less challenging. Starc and Cummins were not a part of the squad that thumped India 4-1 during the ODI series here in 2016, and Hazlewood played just one game. The damage was largely inflicted by the likes of John Hastings, Kane Richardson and James Faukner.

This time around, along with a number of changes in the batting order, Australia have added veteran quick Peter Siddle, who last played an ODI in 2010, and has had impressive performances in the BBL over the last couple of seasons. Their pace battery also includes young Western Australian fast bowlers Jason Behrendorff and Jhye Richardson.

"They don't play too much of ODI cricket, I think," Rohit said. "The last time we played in the format here, these guys (Hazlewood, Starc, Cummins) weren't playing and we were still beaten 4-1. Australia still have quality in their bowling. Of course those three are their premier bowlers but they've got guys who can do the job for them.

"They've got a bowling line-up who can put us under pressure without a doubt. They've been playing some limited-overs cricket, they've been doing well. It's not going to be a walkover situation for us. We've still got to grind it out there and make sure we put them under pressure. Team is high on confidence right now so we got to carry it it this format as well."

While MS Dhoni's spot has been among the other middle-order concerns for India, Rohit said the former captain is a "guiding light" and has a larger role to play in the side, also crediting him for the recent successes of India's wristspinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.

"Over the years, we've seen what sort of presence he [MS Dhoni] has in the dressing room, " Rohit said. "With him around, there's a sense of calmness. Him being around the team is always helpful. He's a guiding light around the group. Also with the bat, batting down the order, providing that finishing touch is very important. He's finished so many games for us. His role is very important. His presence around the group is a massive factor for us.

"Someone like Dhoni behind the stumps telling them what the batsman is trying to do makes a big difference. Since Sri Lanka tour in 2017 they've done really well. One of the reason is MS. He's guided these two guys in the middle overs, how to keep things tight, field placements. He's helped the captain a lot in the field as well."

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