The national selection committee headed by M S K Prasad largely went for the tried and tested combination, with the exception of rookie Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar, as they picked the Indian squad for the ICC World Cup on Monday. There were question marks over only three spots – reserve wicketkeeper-batsman, No. 4 batter and whether Ravindra Jadeja will be preferred over a fourth specialist pacer.
In the end, the wise men picked Dinesh Karthik ahead of Rishabh Pant as the second stumper behind M S Dhoni. The selectors gave DK the nod citing his glovework, experience and versatility. They feel he could be the finisher in the Indian batting order.
Pant is still a work in progress, especially behind the stumps. The Indian think tank has played it safe by overlooking the explosive left-hander for the big event. However, this is only a temporary setback for Pant who is likely to be India's first-choice stumper in all formats once Dhoni calls it a day.
The No. 4 slot has been hogging the headlines for sometime and in the end India have decided not to gamble on Ambati Rayudu. By picking K L Rahul and Shankar, the selectors have given captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri at least a couple of options. They could even play Rahul at No. 3 and move Kohli down to No. 4. But considering his phenomenal record as a one-drop batsman, Kohli will be better off playing at his favourite spot.
Shankar has impressed one and all with his technique and temperament in his short international career. His lively fielding and seam bowling helped him pip Rayudu.
The selectors have picked only three specialist pacers – Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. They reckon all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Shankar can play the supporting role in the seam-bowling department. This meant Jadeja made the cut. The Saurashtra player's all-round abilities and electric fielding swung the pendulum in his favour.
The opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal and middle-order batsman Kedar Jadhav were certainties in the squad along with Kohli, Dhoni, Pandya and the pace trio.
The middle order still remains a worry for India. The squad lacks firepower in the death overs barring Pandya.
The two-time champions open their campaign against South Africa on June 5 followed by games against holders Australia and strong challengers New Zealand. A lot will depend on how the Men in Blue fare in these three games.
The format – with each team playing the other nine opponents and the top-four making the semifinals – means it's going to be a long-drawn-out battle. The fitness levels of the Indian players after a gruelling IPL season too will have a bearing on the end result.