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News Analysis

India's bid to adapt to new ODI landscape

The squad to tour Sri Lanka hints that the selectors have understood the importance of wristspinners and attacking middle-order batsmen

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
India's selectors have finally made the big call of leaving Yuvraj Singh out of the ODI squad. His experience had counted in his favour at the big event - the Champions Trophy - and though the door has not yet been firmly shut on him it is a lot more ajar for batsmen such as Suresh Raina, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer. Expect some rotation of personnel in one-day cricket, which India will see a lot of in the coming months.
There are three ODI series during the home season, and one in South Africa in the new year. India hope to get a clearer picture of their World Cup squad by the time they travel to England next year, also the venue for the next World Cup.
Apart from bringing back Manish Pandey and KL Rahul, who would have been in the Champions Trophy squad but for injuries, India have also left out R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for the ODIs in Sri Lanka. With confirmation coming that Ashwin is to play county cricket and Jadeja also looking for a county, this is more serious than their just being rested. All the top teams are starting to rely on wristspinners to take wickets in the middle overs of an ODI. India have often been exposed in this area, especially on flat tracks, which is what you get in limited-overs cricket.
If their replacements - Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, both wristspinners - grab their chances the World Cup squad might just be too small for both Ashwin and Jadeja.
It will be more difficult for Yuvraj to force his way back, though. The competition for batting slots is intense. Even after winning the Man-of-the-Series award in the West Indies ODIs, Ajinkya Rahane will struggle to make the first XI now.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are back as the first-choice openers, and Rahul is likely to be tried in the middle order and be present as back-up opener too. Rahane has performed similar duties, but he has a history of struggling to maintain a good strike-rate once the ball gets old. With Dhawan and Rohit back, and if Rahul can do adapt to the demands of a middle-order batsman, Rahane might be left without a role.
Then there are Iyer, Raina and Pant, who are on the outside now but remain firmly in the scheme of things. ESPNcricinfo understands that India are keeping an eye on Raina's fitness, and will test him in the A series against New Zealand later this year. If Raina is fit and in form, his experience and utility will make sure a player like Yuvraj is not missed. Had Pant done well in the A tour of South Africa, like Pandey and Iyer did, he would have put more pressure on MS Dhoni, who stays the No. 1 wicketkeeper.
Performance in A tour has also got Shardul Thakur a chance as India have rested Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. Jaydev Unadkat, who brings a left-arm variation, continues to be on the radar. The selectors are also keeping an eye on Krunal Pandya for the spinner's job outside the two Test spinners and the three selected for this tour: Kuldeep, Chahal and Axar Patel. Krunal, though, is likely to be introduced in T20 cricket first.
Overall, this selection shows that the selectors and the team management are aware of India's issues in limited-overs cricket. They were perhaps aware of them even when they selected the Champions Trophy squad, but didn't want to blood in Kuldeep in a big event or miss out on the experience of Yuvraj. It was strange then that many of the same players went to West Indies, but that might have been because of the uncertainty in the team's leadership and a short turnaround between the two series. Now, you can see a clearer direction in the selections, and India still have time on their side.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo