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How India's contenders are shaping up ahead of the 2023 ODI World Cup

Rishabh Pant's accident is a cause for concern, as is the lack of a credible back-up for Hardik Pandya

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
09-Jan-2023
Getty Images

Getty Images

In November, just before India's ODI series in New Zealand, we listed 22 candidates out of which the 15 was expected to be picked for the 2023 World Cup later this year, to be played in India. Since then, India have played two ODI series, but the selection for those was hardly coherent and headed in no specific direction. Still, many of the contenders played and made a case of themselves. One or two might have played themselves out.
Starting Tuesday with the three-match series against Sri Lanka, India have 15 scheduled ODIs in bilateral series and the Asia Cup before the World Cup. Here, we look at the movement among the contenders.

The top order - has Dhawan dropped out of contention?

It is a little too late to drop someone you have invested in for the last three years, even making him the captain in the absence of the regular captain, but Shikhar Dhawan has made himself droppable. In the last couple of years, his returns have dipped, and it's not like his replacement is going to debut at the World Cup: Shubman Gill has played 15 ODIs, Ishan Kishan ten.
It will take extraordinary circumstances for Dhawan to return so close to the World Cup, but he remains an outside shot given his experience should both Gill and Kishan hit wretched form. At the moment, though, they have only strengthened their case with runs in New Zealand and Bangladesh. Kishan has even scored a double-century.
Other top-order batters since the last ODI World Cup
Rohit Sharma
Innings: 18, Runs 745, Average 44, Strike Rate 96
Made a comeback after injury during the ODI series in Bangladesh. It is important he gets a string of matches and some rhythm under his belt in the lead-up to the World Cup. Time for resting might be over.
Ishan Kishan
Innings 6, Runs 401, Average 67, Strike Rate 127
Brings the dynamism and left-handedness needed at the top of the order to capitalise on the powerplay. Was only an outside contender two series ago, but the injury to Rohit left a gap in the door for him, which he has burst open with the double-century.
Shubman Gill
Innings 13, Runs 671, Average 67, Strike Rate 102
Wasn't a part of the squad in Bangladesh, but scored a 50 and 45 not out in New Zealand. Will definitely be part of the plans.
Virat Kohli
Innings 27, Runs 1169, Average 45, Strike Rate 93
Master of the format, scored a century in the shadow of Kishan's double-century. ODIs also happen to be his best format.

Middle order - the Pant situation is a worry

Rishabh Pant's road accident means he may or may not be able to present a case for the World Cup in time. On the other hand, it will be heartening that Hardik Pandya is back.
Middle-order batters since the last ODI World Cup
KL Rahul
Innings 14, Runs 698, Average 58, Strike Rate 106
Back to the middle order, where he has scored runs, after having been tried in other positions. Might also keep wicket if Kishan doesn't play in the series against Sri Lanka.
Shreyas Iyer
Innings 24, Runs 955, Average 45, Strike Rate 97
Keeps going from strength to strength in the middle order in both ODIs and Tests. Important spin hitter in the middle overs.
Hardik Pandya
Innings 10, Runs 429, Average 48, Strike Rate 116
Time to take this vital cog out of cotton wool. The only doubt over his place in the XI can be fitness-based, if it prevents him from bowling.
Suryakumar Yadav
Innings 14, Runs 350, Average 29, Strike Rate 98
Hasn't yet had a proper run in ODIs, but there are those who believe he can challenge Rahul in the middle order based on his exploits in T20s.
Rishabh Pant
Innings 17, Runs 638, Average 40, Strike Rate 111
A definite force in the middle order, or even the top order, if he is fit and ready in time.
It might be time to move on from other outside contenders except maybe Deepak Hooda, that too because he bowls.

Allrounders - still no back-ups for Hardik

There is no seam-bowling allrounder to be back-up for Hardik should he get injured again. All the other allrounders are spinners. India will still play at least one of them or possibly two depending on the pitches.
Ravindra Jadeja
Matches 18, Runs 335, Strike Rate 95, Wickets 13, Economy Rate 5.4
On the weight of his improved batting, the first choice, but his injury layoff mysteriously keeps getting longer. Might he have to prioritise formats when he is back?
Axar Patel
Matches 8, Runs 168, Strike Rate 120, Wickets 10, Economy Rate 4.39
A better bowler than Jadeja in limited-overs formats, and his batting has only been improving, as seen in his crucial innings when promoted in a tense chase in the Mirpur Test, followed by a blinder of a T20I half-century against Sri Lanka in a chase that India lost.
Washington Sundar
Matches 11, Runs 212, Strike Rate 87, Wickets 13, Economy Rate 4.4
Providing variety as opposed to the two left-arm spinners is his biggest draw. Has been injury-prone himself.

Spinners - will Chahal or Kuldeep pip a fingerspinner?

If pitches assist spin, India might not play either of them in the XI because then they can bank on their fingerspinners. However, on flatter pitches, a wristspinner is extremely valuable.
Yuzvendra Chahal
Matches 21, Wickets 34, Strike Rate 30, Economy Rate 5.7
India's second-highest wicket-taker since the 2019 World Cup, taking one every 30 balls. Unlucky not to have played a single game in the last two T20 World Cups.
Kuldeep Yadav
Matches 22, Wickets 26, Strike Rate 46, Economy Rate 5.76
Not being fielded in ODIs, but slowly being rehabilitated into international cricket after massive drop in confidence. Left-arm wristspin could be a point of difference.

Fast bowlers - Shami and Malik in the frame

There has been no clear direction here either, which is only getting compounded by the extended injury layoff for Prasidh Krishna. They need to get a middle-overs enforcer back-up. It just brings Mohammed Shami and Umran Malik into the picture.
Jasprit Bumrah
Matches 14, Wickets 18, Strike Rate 38, Economy Rate 5.16
Coming back from a stress reaction of the back, which kept him out of the T20 World Cup. His performance on return will be followed with bated breath.
Prasidh Krishna
Matches 14, Wickets 25, Strike Rate 27, Economy Rate 5.32
Has an excellent strike rate of 27 balls per wicket, but needs to get back on the park soon.
Mohammed Siraj
Matches 15, Wickets 24, Strike Rate 31, Economy Rate 4.62
Continued bowling well in Bangladesh. Can bowl with the new ball and also bang it in in the middle overs. Minus the height of Krishna.
Arshdeep Singh
Only just coming back from an illness. Left-arm angle, swing each way, experience of bowling death overs in T20s could go in his favour, but needs some more ODIs under his belt.
Mohammed Shami
Matches 15, Wickets 25, Strike Rate 30, Economy Rate 6.16
Has kind of become the man India go to for all World Cups even if he plays little cricket in that format in the intervening years. Great seam position, lot of experience, bustling pace.
Umran Malik
Matches 5, Wickets 7, Strike Rate 28, Economy Rate 6
Raw pace, but is showing signs of higher accuracy having stayed in the India bubble. Is an outside chance especially if Krishna's fitness remains under a cloud. His selection for the Sri Lanka ODIs says as much.
Deepak Chahar
Matches 12, Wickets 15, Strike Rate 32, Economy Rate 5.58
Again, fitness dodgy, but when available, he is a genuine swing bowler with decent batting ability in the lower order.
Shardul Thakur
Matches 26, Wickets 38, Strike Rate 32, Economy Rate 6.23
If batting down the order is something India hold dearly, Thakur is that man. Takes wickets quickly but concedes runs just as quickly. Not part of the current squad.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo