Rohit Sharma believes allrounders will benefit India at the World Cup
Colombo, 10th September, 2023
Rohit Sharma has a well-laid-out plan for the ICC Credit World Cup. The India captain has shown his preference for stout and well-rounded all-rounders of his choice for the quadrennial event that will get off the ground with a match between England and New Zealand in Ahmedabad on October 5.
The home team – which has won the World Cup twice in 1983 and 2011 --- will start its campaign against Australia at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on October 9. In a round-robin league format before the semi-finals and final, India will play apart from Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, England, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.
Some four decades ago at the 1983 World Cup, India was equipped with all-rounders like Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal, Roger Binny, Kirti Azad and Ravi Shastri. Moreover, eight players in the squad played in all eight matches, Whereas in 2011, the India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni deployed the services of Yuvraj Singh, who scored 362 runs and took fifteen wickets. The main wicket-taker for India was left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan (21 wickets) and right-hand medium pacer Munaf Patel (11 wickets).
At the outset, it must be said that it will be the last 50-over format World Cup for Sharma. It would be the same with Virat Kohli who was part of the 2011 World Cup-winning Indian team. He contributed a valuable 35 and was involved in a substantial partnership with Gautam Gambhir. The likes of Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur and Suryakumar Yadav could also be playing a World Cup for the last time.
Having missed the 2011 competition in India, Sharma --- who was handed over the reins of the Indian team across formats in late 2021, but is not now the captain for the Twenty20 format --- is keen and eager to win the World Cup at home. He was part of the 2007 team under Dhoni that won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa.
In the last couple of years, the team management and the selection committee, with a clear-cut idea of the combination that would be useful in home conditions in October and November, provided opportunities to the identified players. As the chairman of the selection committee, Ajit Agarkar said most of the 15-member squad picked themselves. Both Sharma and Agarkar elaborated on the balance that would provide depth to batting. The adage is that the bowlers win matches, but for this to happen, the batsmen must post a formidable total.
Not long ago, Sharma and the selection committee did not have a clue about the health status of Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Iyer and K. L. Rahul. Thankfully all have been declared fit.
The four prominent names in the 15-member squad are all-rounders Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur and Axar Patel. The good thing that happened in the last fourteen months is that Pandya --- struck by a bad back --- gave himself time to recover and made himself available for the IPL 22 season. He has not looked back since.
Sharma has gone to the extent of saying that Pandya’s contribution with the bat and ball has to be weighty for India to excel in the 45-day World Cup.
Sharma and the selection committee may have also looked at the experience these all-rounders bring in. Pandya has played 79 one-day internationals, scored 1754 runs and taken 74 wickets at 38 runs apiece, which is on the higher side. He has scored 770 runs at No., 6 with a strike rate of 6.15 an over. His half-century against Pakistan in India’s first Asia Cup match has pleased his captain.
The more experienced in the all-rounder’s list is left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, He has 14 years, 179 matches, 2574 runs and 197 wickets under his belt (before the Super 4 match against Pakistan here at Colombo) and he is expected to provide meat to the No. 7 slot where he has scored 1827 runs.
The third all-rounder is Shardul Thakur. He does not have many runs to show for, he has taken 59 wickets in 40 matches. The team management feels that he can hit the big blows and add runs (he has hit 9 x 6s and 31 x 4s so far). Overall he has played 75 matches across formats and this fact may have tilted the scales in his favour.
The fourth all-rounder is left-hand spinner Axar Patel, who will get a chance or two when the team chooses to rest Jadeja. Patel shone with the bat in the home Test series against Australia and chipped in heavily with the bat. He has played 78 matches across formats, scored 1254 runs and taken 147 wickets.
After being rocked by left-hand seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi in the opening match, India rallied to make 266 which is what Sharma hopes to do in the World Cup. Even K. L. Rahul and Ishan Kishan (both wicketkeepers) are looked at as allrounders. The captain and the selection committee have made their choice for the big event. The Indian team will miss Rishabh Pant and have to make do with either Rahul or Kishan.